VIM Airlines turns to Tatneft for fuel?

Due to delays caused by shortage of fuel, the airline could seek the assistance of the Tatarstan government, but officially it remains silent

VIM Airlines turns to Tatneft for fuel? Photo: avsimrus.com

The airline VIM-Avia not for the first day has been experiencing problems with delays: for the previous weekend alone, the carrier delayed about 20 flights to various destinations. VIM-Avia explained the problem by ''traditional seasonal slowdown'' and stated that they were working on resolving the situation and seeking assistance. The media names specific ''saviors'' for the company with the residence in Bogatye Saby: the government of the Republic of Tatarstan, Tatneft PJSC and the associated bank Zenit. Besides, law enforcement agencies have become interested in the airline. Read the details of what is happening with the carrier in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Constant delays

Fourteen flights of the airline VIM-Avia were delayed for an indefinite period in the Moscow airport Domodedovo on Saturday. They were both domestic — to Simferopol, Magadan, Blagoveshchensk, Saint-Petersburg, Sochi and Krasnodar, and international flights to a number of popular resorts. On Sunday, it was delayed four flights of the airline VIM-Avia from Turkish Antalya to Domodedovo and one in Pulkovo. In most of the cases, the delays were up to 9 hours.

On 25 September, according to the online scoreboard in Domodedovo airport, the base airport of VIM-Avia, there were another five flights delayed — from Antalya, Sochi and Yerevan, the delay time ranged from 1 to 12 hours. In connection with the delays, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation instructed to resume the work of the anticrisis staff on the situation with VIM-Avia.

Fourteen flights of the airline VIM-Avia were delayed for an indefinite period in the Moscow airport Domodedovo on Saturday. Photo: og.ru

It has been not the first case of mass delays of flights by VIM-Avia for the past few months. In June, several ''holiday'' flights were delayed for more than half a day, a flight to China, just recently launched from Kazan, was delayed for 2,5 hours. In the result, VIM-Avia significantly reduced the charter program. Then the company explained the situation by the fact that more than 10 Boeing aircrafts had not been returned to the fleet of the carrier after vehicle inspection.

In the matter of delays VIM-Avia is distinguished by enviable constancy: according to Rosaviation, in August the airline delayed 59 flights for more than two hours — exactly the same as in July and four times more than in June. In June, the airline joined the three leaders by the share of delayed flights. According to the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, the Federal Air Transport Agency was instructed to introduce a limit for depth of sales of tickets for VIM-Avia.

''Traditional decline'' and multimillion debts

According to the airline's statement, the delays are connected with ''traditional seasonal slowdown, which led to a dispute of economic entities''. The company held a series of consultations with state regulatory bodies, as well as with unnamed ''financial institutions that took the decision to support the airline''.

According to Vedomosti, ''the disputes between economic entities'' are connected with the debt of the airline to Domodedovo airport for the supply of fuel. The amount of debt amounts to more than 500 million rubles. The company describes the scheme of the company's work the following way, ''In winter season, it [the company] accumulates debts, in summer it earns and repays the money. But this year, the scheme has been broken because of the failed summer season.''

Domodedovo agreed to continue fuel delivery after it received a letter of guarantee from Tatneft. Photo: Maksim Platonov

The publication also names quite specific ''saviors'' of the airline: the help came from the ''new homeland'' of VIM-Avia — from Tatarstan. Domodedovo agreed to continue fuel delivery after it received a letter of guarantee from Tatneft. Also, according to Vedomosti, the airline will be supported by the bank Zenit, in which Tatneft has a share of almost 72%. Perhaps, Zenit will act as agent on debt restructuring of the airline — at least VIM-Avia is just looking for such agent. It is also reported that the government of Tatarstan will provide support for the airline.

Besides, VIM-Avia tuned to Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Arkady Dvorkovich for state guarantees on loans. Dvorkovich, according to his representative Aliya Samigullina, forwarded the letter to the Transport Ministry with a proposal to ''consider''. Thus the provided assistance will enough for the maintenance activities of the airline only until Monday inclusive.

At the time of the material publication, Tatarstan government, Tatneft and the bank Zenit did not respond to the request to participate in the rescue of the airline. The airline reported to Realnoe Vremya that ''they usually do not comment on such situations.''

The owner of the company – Rashid Mursekayev (on the right). Photo: bashinform.ru

Moscowites with Tatarstan residence

Form February 2016, VIM-Avia officially changed the Moscow residence for Tatarstan: the company received registration in Bogatye Saby. The owners of the airline — Svetlana and Rashid Mursekaevs, it is unknown about any ties of the owners of VIM Airline with Tatarstan and the ruling circles of the republic besides the airline.

At the same time, VIM-Avia is hardly can be called a Tatarstan airline: on the websites of the regional airports it does not appear as a carrier. In August, VIM-Avia refused admission to the flight Kazan-Chongqing, but last year the airline was approved to perform flights from Kazan to China and from Kazan to Belgium. The flight map on the website of the airline has a regular flight between Kazan and Moscow. The base airport of VIM-Avia, however, remains Moscow Domodedovo airport.

VIM-Avia takes the 10th place among Russian airlines by passenger flow and the fourth among those flying from Domodedovo. Its passenger flow for January-August 2017 grew almost threefold up to 1,8 million passangers.

In August, the Volga Region Transport Prosecutor Timur Kebekov instructed to control the legitimacy of the activities of VIM-Avia due to delays and cancellations of flights. Photo: ptproc.ru

VIM-Avia in the sight of the Investigative Committee and Prosecutor's office

This time the situation with the delayed flights of VIM-Avia has attracted the attention of law enforcement agencies at the highest level. So, the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Alexander Bastrykin has ordered to conduct a preliminary examination. The committee believes that the airline VIM-Avia sold tickets knowing about the impossibility of flight terms specified in the ticket.

It was also found out that the airline owes not only to the fuel suppliers. Earlier, the Volga Region Transport Prosecutor's office initiated an administrative case against the airline VIM-Avia and its leadership due to wage arrears to employees at more than 206 million rubles. The Prosecutor's office will carry out inspections in connection with the recent flight delays.

In August, the Volga Region Transport Prosecutor Timur Kebekov instructed the Prosecutor of the Tatar road traffic prosecution Maksim Kovalyuk to control the legitimacy of the activities of VIM-Avia due to delays and cancellations of flights. Besides, the Soviet district court fined the airline at 300,000 rubles for the delay of three flights — by 100,000 rubles each, which is the maximum amount of the fine for such offense. It is no coincidence that the head of the Federal Tourism Agency Oleg Safonov told words in support of strengthening punishment for delays of charter flights.

By Aleksander Artemyev