VIM-Avia goes into a spin and drives a wedge between ATOR and Rostourism

Russia launches a special operation on returning from abroad of almost 40,000 clients of the troubled airline, the total number of victims can reach 200,000 people

VIM-Avia goes into a spin and drives a wedge between ATOR and Rostourism Photo: moscowalk.ru

The Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviation) has announced the revocation of the air operator certificate from VIM-Avia. According to Rostourism, there are 38,900 customers of the airline being abroad at that moment. Seven airlines will transport passengers on scheduled flights, the Russian budget allocated them 200 million rubles for this purpose. As for charter flights, the list has not been approved yet, but it is known that funding will be provided from extrabudgetary sources. About how the special operation on preventing a tourist collapse due to problems of the airline with residence in Tatarstan is developing and why the Association of tour operators had a fight with the Federal Agency for Tourism due to this story — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

''Sorry'' and ''help'' from VIM-Avia

Following mass delays of flights of VIM-Avia, the co-owner of the airline, Rashid Mursekaev, reported that they decided to terminate charter flights to resorts and that now they are considering an introduction of external crisis management in connection with financial problems of the company.

The Federal Tourism Agency and the association Turpomosch opened a hotline for customers of VIM-Avia who now are being located abroad. Besides, a crisis centre is operating in Rostourism. On the agency's website it is reported that in cooperation with tour operators it is being conducted the work on formation of lists of tourists and determining of their location.

On the website of the airline, there appeared a message of apology to all passengers of delayed flights and the explanations that the company was in a difficult economic situation. ''Unfortunately, we have to state that the airline VIM-Avia is having a difficult economic situation. We have no working capital, the financing is frozen, and the service at airports have been suspended,'' stated in the message of the airline. Besides, according to the note, VIM-Avia is continuing negotiations with financial institutions and counts on the support of government agencies and partners from the tourism industry.

Rashid Mursekaev reported that they decided to terminate charter flights to resorts. Photo: bashinform.ru

The Association of Tour Operators (ATOR) sent to the Russian government an appeal to intervene in the resolution of the situation with the insolvency of the company VIM-Avia. According to ATOR, up to 100,000 Russian tourists can suffer, due to the cancellation of charter flights VIM-Avia the country's tourism industry has faced a ''severe problem'' which threatens to escalate into a collapse in the market and to cause social tensions. The total number of affected customers of the company can reach 200,000 people including those who bought tickets for regular flights.

In response, the Federal Tourism Agency released a note, in which on behalf of the head of the agency Oleg Safonov it is stated that there would not be any collapse in the tourism market in connection with the termination of charter flights of the airline VIM-Avia, the situation is under control, and the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, Rosaviation and Rostourism are being engaged in returning the tourists.

Vnukovo and 7 airlines come to help

On 26 September in the afternoon, the airport Vnukovo began to accommodate all flights of the airline VIM-Avia. In the media there were reports that the flights be financed by the subsidiary of Aeroflot – the airline Rossiya, the expenses of which can amount to 1 billion rubles.

Besides, following the meeting at the Federal Air Transport Agency, seven airlines agreed to transport the passengers of VIM-Avia on scheduled flights: Ural Airlines, iFly, Red Wings, Nord Star, Pegas Fly, Nordwind Airlines and Yakutia airline. It has been allocated 200 million rubles from the federal budget to compensate the costs in 2018. The evacuation of tourists from abroad will be financed from extra-budgetary sources.

On 26 September in the afternoon, the airport Vnukovo began to accommodate all flights of the airline VIM-Avia. Photo: zaomos.news

According to the information on the website of Rosaviation, in the last few days all the delayed charter flights VIM-Avia related to the flights from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg to Antalya, Larnaca and Iraklion. According to Rosaviation, charter passengers are being transported from Turkish resorts through tour operators on the boards of other Russian airlines. Royal Flight, having flown from Antalya to Moscow and back, carried 545 passengers, another 235 people from Antalya to Moscow and 160 from Moscow to Antalya were transported by the airline Azur Air. The Greek airline Ellinair also stated about its willingness to help, it is ready to carry the passengers of VIM-Avia at its own expense.

ATOR against Rostourism

Amid the problems of VIM-Avia, there unexpectedly started a conflict between Rostourism and ATOR. The morning press release exchange was not enough for the two organisations. In the evening, Rostourism held even entire briefing dedicated to the situation with VIM-Avia. According to the head of the agency Oleg Safonov, there are 38,900 tourists being abroad at the moment. It is planned to return 1,500 people in the framework of the charter program within the country. In total of 196,000 tickets were sold for the flights of VIM-Avia.

At another briefing, Executive Director of ATOR Maya Lomidze gave information on the troubled airline. According to their data, 30,000 tourists are being abroad at the moment, in Russia 70,000 people are being in anticipation of a holiday with tickets in hands for departure from the country. In its turn, the debt of VIM-Avia to the tour operators amount to several tens of millions of dollars, and at the moment the current leadership is being removed from management of the company, there has been introduced an external management. By the way, alongside with the briefing, the Federal Air Transport Agency published a report on the suspension of the air operator certificate of VIM-Avia, thereby ceasing its work.

Continuing the briefing, Lomidze said that among those who have also fallen under attack there are tourists who bought the tickets individually. The head of ATOR focuses on these passengers, explaining that they are the most vulnerable category.

''We do not a see a real, practical benefit from these meetings,'' says the executive director of ATOR. Photo: atorus.ru

Maya Lomidze also criticized the work of Rosaviation and Rostourism, noting that if the first pays all attention only to regular flights, which will be sponsored from the federal budget, the second one is gathering with tour operators and only discussing how bad the situation is. ''We do not a see a real, practical benefit from these meetings,'' says the executive director of ATOR.

In its turn, earlier the head of the Federal Tourism Agency Oleg Safonov in an interview to NSN accused ATOR of provocation because of turning to the government of Russia, calling it a PR move. Executive Director of ATOR parried these words with the statement that ''the appeal to the government was caused by the absolutely clear understanding to what this situation can lead. I do not see a pressing here.'' According to her, if the responsibility for the passengers of VIM-Avia will be borne by tour operators, who will have to pay for the services of a carrier again, the travel market ''will fall''.

Have the ambitious plans been thwarted by the lack of funding?

As a source in VIM-Avia told Realnoe Vremya on the condition of anonymity, the airline took on obligations that could not fulfill — they took flights not having enough aircrafts, pilots, stewards and fuel. Almost over two years, the fleet grew from 10 to 29 aircrafts, but they failed to provide them with maintenance, fuel and engineering support in the result of a lack of funding.

As the source explains, the specialists of different levels had warned the leadership in advance what was necessary for the operation of a vehicle, for example, details, knowing that otherwise after a certain amount of time the aircraft will stop operating. However, the required parts were not purchased, and the fears of experts were justified — as a result there were delays, flight transfers, and the aircraft generated losses. Only after that the necessary parts were ordered on an emergency basis and after 2-7 days were installed on the vehicle. The company worked by that scheme in other cases as well.

It is still unclear who will help the troubled air carrier if the passengers are being actively transported already. Photo: gubdaily.ru

From delays to a mass collapse

We will remind that earlier the Volga Transport Prosecutor's Office initiated administrative proceedings against the airline VIM-Avia on the wage arrears at more than 206 million rubles. A minimum of 500 million rubles is the debt of the carrier to the airport Domodedovo.

''These figures (of the debt — editor's note) float. Originally the debt to the airport Domodedovo was about 500 million rubles, now it is a different figure. Now our task is to understand the size of the disaster,'' Minister of Transport of Russia Valery Okulov told the reporters.

Besides, the Prosecutor's General Office of the Russian Federation has recently made a submission to the head of Federal Air Transport Agency due to problems in the airline VIM-Avia. In its turn, the Federal Air Transport Agency organized an unscheduled inspection of the carrier.

It is still unclear who will help the troubled air carrier if the passengers are being actively transported already. Earlier it was reported that VIM-Avia turned to the government of Tatarstan, Tatneft and the bank Zenit for support, but in all three cases this information was denied. We will remind that the republic of in the news was mentioned not by chance as the airline is registered in Bogatye Saby. Later there appeared another news about the support, according to which Tatneft funded the regular flights of VIM-Avia to the Far East, as reported in a crisis centre of the Federal Air Transport Agency.

By Mariya Gorozhaninova