Russian Business Aviation On the Rise Again, for Now

 - September 12, 2018, 10:28 AM

Business aircraft traffic in Russia climbed 2.5 percent year-over-year in 2017, according to a just-released report from the Russian United Business Aviation Association (RUBAA). It also showed a 3.3 percent uptick in passengers on those flights, said RUBAA chairman Alexander Kuleshov, who also occupies the position of deputy general manager at the State Scientific Research Institute of Civil Aviation. Prepared for the RUBAA conference in Kazan last month, the document was released publicly yesterday on the eve of RUBAA Show 2018 at Moscow Vnukovo Airport.

For five years now, the association has been issuing annual reports using information collected in the airports of the country’s seven largest cities—Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-upon-Don, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, and Sochi—on movements of all business jets, except those operated by the government. RUBAA experts believe that these cities generate some 80 percent of the nation’s business aviation traffic and thus provide a fair indication of the industry’s health.

The report indicates that, from the peak of 47,652 in 2014, the number of business jet movements to and from the seven cities declined, to 41,230 and 38,455 in the two consecutive years, and then went up to 39,427 last year. Respective figures for passengers are 157,173; 130,729; 119,864; and 123,866. RUBAA explained that the 17 percent drop in flights from the “pre-crisis” year of 2014 resulted from the deteriorating relations between the Kremlin and the West, affecting the business climate in Russia.

Meanwhile, international flights to and from Russia shrank by 27 percent as foreign business jet operators reduced their flight operations by more than a third. The reduction in domestic flights was more tempered, falling 10 percent to 15 percent in the two “crisis years.” According to RUBAA, the general decline was partially compensated by more flights to southern regions of Russia and to the peninsula of Crimea, which emerged as the preferred areas for local entrepreneurs and investors.

The good news for the local operators is that, in the course of the past four years, traffic volumes rose by 30 percent, while their foreign colleagues reduced theirs in and out of Russia by 32 percent. As a result, the share of local operators grew from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent last year. Absolute figures for 2017 are 8,251 flights performed by Russian operators and about 23,000 by foreign ones.

There are no statistics yet available for this year, but RUBAA expects the Russian business aircraft traffic figures to be higher, thanks to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The games attracted a lot of aircraft movements into Russia, with key airports reporting a rise of 30 percent to 60 percent over previous year’s traffic during the two months the event was held. However, next year is expected to be worse due to the additional sets of U.S. sanctions on Russia, introduced in late August and the second coming into force in November.