Trials of VIM-Avia: holidaymakers stuck in Kazan, Beijing under threat and cancellation of charter flights

Kazan tourism agencies about problems of an air carrier from Tatarstan’s Saby

A sudden reduction of charter flight programme of VIM-Avia that has the Tatarstan registration can ruin the improvement of the air bridge between Beijing and Kazan that opened on 31 May this year with fanfares. Although the second flight from the Celestial Kingdom scheduled for 6 June is still in the programme, Chinese and Kazan partners of the project are looking for a substitution to the wide-bodied Boeing 777 passenger plane. Meanwhile, a Turkish flight to Dalaman stuck in Kazan for 12 hours.

Flight to Dalaman delayed for 11 hours

The announcement of VIM-Avia officials about a reduction of charter flight programme until 15 June this year caught tour operators flatfooted. Especially those who sold tours to the most popular destination of Russians – to Turkey's resorts.

''VIM-Avia was to send up to 10 flights only from Moscow every day. Actually, it is not known how many planes have flown. Kazan tourists also could be here,'' representatives of tourism agencies told. Only one scheduled flight of VIM-Avia to Dalaman was delayed in Kazan on Friday. It was to be operated by Boeing 772 with a capacity of 300 seats. With the scheduled flight time at 5 p.m. Moscow time, the tourists were offered to wait until 4 a.m. ''We sent some people by other flights. Some people remained to wait,'' President of the Association of Tourism Agencies of Tatarstan Ramil Miftakhov told. ''We have nothing positive to say about VIM-Avia. Negotiations to solve the problem are taking place. I am dealing with it in Moscow. There are tourists who did not fly to Dalaman. There are those who came from other cities and remained waiting in the airport's hotel. The problems are solved.'' He did not say the exact number of the stuck tourists but assured tourism companies were looking for all the ways to enable their clients to fly as soon as possible.

''We sent some people by other flights. Some people remained to wait,'' Ramil Miftakhov told. Photo: Maksim Platonov

First wake-up calls were as early as May

''As far as we understand, VIM-Avia could not handle the volume of flights booked by tour operators,'' Director of Salavat tour agency Rustem Tarzimanov explains. ''The breakdown was not yesterday but much earlier. The main reason is that part of the airline's fleet did not return by an established period from scheduled maintenance service. Consequently, the flight schedule ruined. People were waiting for the flight for 5-8 hours at the airport. The frequency of flights increased. This is why they decided not to treat the aching tooth but remove it, Part of charter flights were cancelled, but regular ones continue to be operated. If they did not cancel the charter flight programme, it would have been worse,'' he is sure.

According to representatives of Tatarstan tour agencies, almost 10 Boeing planes did not return to the fleet after technical examination. What is more, the majority of them are middle-range liners that are used for Turkish destinations. It means those who purchased tours to Antalya, Dalaman and other resorts of Turkey will have to refuse or endure the inconvenience. According to Ramil Miftakhov, change of a flight's time is an important term of the execution of the agreement. If the delay exceeds 24 hours, a tourist has the right to require 100% compensation of the tour's price. ''The operator must compensate one day of the holiday if tourist loses it,'' Miftakhov explained. ''In this case, I don't see anything critical. If the tourists fly at 4 a.m., they will be at 8 a.m. They can wait for compensation if the tour operator wishes. As far as I am concerned, some planes have arrived now, not all of them. But they are trying to fix the situation,'' Miftakhov is calming down and offering not to exaggerate the situation. ''We always warn tourists that a charter flight not always takes off on time, and they need to be ready for it,'' he noted.

''The breakdown was not yesterday but much earlier,'' Rustem Tarzimanov explains. Photo: Roman Khasaev

VIM-Avia: tree planes were late during technical examination

Indeed, VIM-Avia's several delays drew attention of the Tatarstan Transport Prosecutor's Office before the stoppage of the charter flight programme. Commenting the situation, the airline's press service complained Realnoe Vremya that the delays of the airline's flights were caused by the late return of three wide-body planes from scheduled technical maintenance that were expected to come back over 10 days ago.

''This factor as well as the beginning of the holiday season that is characterised by a high tourist traffic for late May particularly to Turkey's resorts led to delays and a change of flights. In addition, the airline's attempts to book planes of other airlines for carriage were not successful because there is a deficit of planes at the moment. The airline assures all the liabilities in front of the passengers and tour operators will be accepted.''

Curiously, last spring VIM-Avia changed its registration in Tatarstan in Bogatye Saby settlement.

To save air bridge with China

Being in Moscow, officials of the tourism association are negotiating not only on the Turkish flights but also the Chinese route Beijing-Moscow. So, Kazan launched flights with China on 31 May. However, the first charter flight that brought 300 tourists from the Celestial Kingdom landed 2,5 hours later. A Chinese tour operator bought the flights. Persona Grata company from Kazan is the host. In other words, it books transportation and hotels for the Chinese guests. According to Ramil Miftakhov, the second flight scheduled for 6 June remains in the flight programme. But it is a question whether the flight will be operated. As he says, the long-range Boeing was found a substitution. But it is not certain it won't perform other flights. ''I can't vouch for them. It's all in Allah's hands.''

Kazan launched flights with China on 31 May. However, the first charter flights that brought 300 tourists from the Celestial Kingdom landed 2,5 hours later. Photo:

Meanwhile, VIM-Avia's press service told ''the information about cancellations and changes of flights will be published on the page and in social networks of the airline as soon as information appears''.

''All the liabilities in front of the charter flight passengers that have already been transported to Russian and foreign resorts will be accepted. The airline apologises to the passengers for the inconvenience,'' the company promises.

We can only wait.

By Luiza Ignatyeva