To the Hajj via Makhachkala: Tatarstan residents offered to take a shortcut to Medina

A new subsidised flight between the regional capitals favours the development of tourism including religious

To the Hajj via Makhachkala: Tatarstan residents offered to take a shortcut to Medina Photo: Vasilya Shirshova

Tatarstan and Dagestan have been connected by a direct flight. The first flight to Makhachkala was officially launched at the airport of Kazan on 3 August. UVT Aero airline from Tatarstan operates the flights. It took two years to launch the new flight, it promises big prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation to both regions. Realnoe Vremya tells the details.

First flight and full load

A pleasant surprise was waiting for the first passengers of the flight from Kazan to Makhachkala at the airport of Kazan – energetic Dagestani dances next to the registration post and a festive table with Caucasian dishes.

''Long-standing warm and friendly relations connect Dagestan and Tatarstan. There was signed a cooperation agreement between the two republics at the beginning of the year, and we're launching a direct regular flight 6 months later, which will connect our capitals and will favour the development of interregional links,'' Deputy Minister of Transport and Road of the Republic of Tatarstan Andrey Yegorov welcomed the guests.

It took decades for the close relations between the republics to establish. This is why both regions expressed a great interest in opening the flight. A big diaspora of Dagestani people lives in Tatarstan – about 3,500 people in different cities of the republic, said Dagestan's official representative to Tatarstan Magomed Muslimov.

UVT Aero airline from Tatarstan operates the flights on 50-seated Bombardier CRJ-200 planes. The planes fly twice a week: at 16.00 from Kazan on Fridays and at 19.30 from Makhachkala; the departure from Tatarstan on Sundays is at 23.30, back at 3.05. The flight's duration is 2,5 hours, the load is full in both directions, which means the flight is in demand.

A pleasant surprise was waiting for the first passengers of the flight from Kazan to Makhachkala at the airport of Kazan – energetic Dagestani dances next to the registration post

''The road to the opening of this flight wasn't easy for us, but all difficulties are behind. The flight is subsidised, the price is reasonable – 5,760 rubles, two times a week is enough at the first stage, we'll see later. If there are a chance and desire of passengers to visit the republic more often, we're ready to increase the frequency of flights,'' UVT Aero Director General Pyotr Trubayev claimed.

The passengers are convinced the planes will always have a full load when flying from one republic to the other: ''I haven't been in Kazan before. Such a flight is very needed, of course. I think it will be in demand. I've arrived to see my uncle for the first time, so now I will visit him more often. It's very comfortable it's not via Moscow but direct. I know people will come to Makhachkala from Grozny deliberately for this flight to go to Kazan,'' Kadi Nurmagomayev shared his impressions.

''Tatarstan and Dagestan are spiritually close peoples''

Another festive ceremony awaited colleagues from Tatarstan and participants of the press tour at Makhachkala international airport. Minister of Transport and Road of Dagestan Shirukhan Gadzhimuradov claimed the direct flight could help to strengthen interregional bonds:

''Tatarstan and Dagestan are spiritually close peoples, and the opening of this flight is important in developing both cultural and economic relations between our republics. The Dagestanis are a very mobile people. Considering that the plane had a full load and the plane isn't big, the airline will have to put effort to provide big planes for this destination. Our airport allows to receive such planes,'' noted the head of the Dagestani Transport Ministry.

Shirukhan Gadzhimuradov claimed the direct flight could help to strengthen interregional bonds

According to him, the launch of the flight will provide the republic with more opportunities for cooperation in industry, agriculture and support small and medium-sized enterprises. ''Tatarstan is a more developed region, it's one step ahead, we will learn this good experience. You have many events at both the Russian and world level. We will learn, including in transport and road. We know Tatarstan lays roads well, public transport is well organised, this is useful for us, undoubtedly,'' Gadzhimuradov stressed.

''There is a task of the president of Russia to develop interregional flights not to overload the Moscow air hub, which is still busy. I want to thank officials of Tatarstan and Dagestan because we managed to launch this flight with their personal participation and thanks to the Russian Transport Ministry's good will. I hope further relations of Makhachkala airport and UVT Aero will develop,'' Director General of Makhachkala international airport Arsen Pirmagomedov was next to give a speech.

''The next four-five flights have also been sold out''

Later the director of Makhachkala airport told about his trip to Kazan to the Eurasian forum and the reached agreements. According to him, the site was interesting not only because of its main programme with speeches of specialists but also because it offered the participants mutually beneficial negotiations.

So Dagestan managed to agree on launching other several new flights. For instance, Aeroflot requested slots for two daily flights from Moscow Sheremetyevo to Makhachkala: ''It's a popular destination, Sheremetyevo airport is a good connection hub for flights to Europe,'' Pirmagomedov noted. There was also reached an agreement with S7 Airlines about launching flights Novosibirsk – Makhachkala – Novosibirsk in 2019 summer where a big Dagestani diaspora lives.

''Moreover, there was a programme of negotiations with UVT Aero. We confirmed the preliminary agreement to operate a direct regular flight between Kazan and Makhachkala. The first flight has already shown a good load: the plane was full in two directions. The next four-five flights have also been sold out,'' Arsen Pirmagomedov noted.

Official representative of Dagestan to Tatarstan Arsen Pirmagomedov told Realnoe Vremya later the tickets to the flight had already been purchased till August. In the Makhachkala airport director general's opinion, such a popularity of the destination demonstrates the Dagestani's high mobility. This is why the sides look for further promotion of cooperation: ''It's a new flight Makhachkala – Simferopol, a flight to Georgia, Azerbaijan is possible, and we will think about launching flights to Central Russian cities.''

''The first flight has already shown a good load: the plane was full in two directions. The next four-five flights have also been sold out,'' Arsen Pirmagomedov noted

UVT Aero plans to purchase Embraer 190

According to Pirmagomedov, different categories of passengers provided the full load of the flight: ''We know two tourist groups have arrived in Makhachkala to simply visit our region. And not only relatives flew to Tatarstan. There was signed an agreement on cooperation between enterprises of Tatarstan and Dagestan, several people flew to negotiate.''

In addition, the sides hope for active cooperation in event-related tourism. For instance, the Dagestanis are interested in not only seeing sightseeing points of Tatarstan but also visiting interesting events in the republic. There have already been found people who want to come to Kazan on 25-26 August to the spectacular Red Bull Air Race.

''And the plane is small, it has just 50 seats. And Pyotr Trubayev also understood it. We know about UVT Aero's plans to expand its air fleet, the plans to purchase new Embraer 190 planes for 114 passengers. It will be interesting for both of us because the destination is in demand. We'd also like to remind about Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin's words to renew direct flights between regions like it was before. The Moscow air hub is overloaded, while we will fly to Kazan directly,'' Arsen Pirmagomedov emphasised.

The direct flights will allow tour operators of the two regions to create tour packages. There are all conditions to develop business tourism. The Makhachkala airport director visited Kazan Helicopters himself where he was interested in Ansat helicopters: ''It's very good promising machines. Our colleagues have plans to purchase these helicopters for our airport and republic's needs including to develop tourism. In general, all my trip to Kazan was marked by openness and hospitality wherever I was.''

There have already been found people who want to come to Kazan on 25-26 August to the spectacular Red Bull Air Race. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Given that the Kazan airport competes with that of Ufa and Samara, passenger traffic from Dagestan and neighbouring Caucasian republics to Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Novy Urengoy, Nizhnevartovsk and other cities in Siberia and the Far East could be serviced via the capital of Tatarstan, thinks Pirmagomedov. At the Eurasian Forum, the participants also shared experience in developing IT in the aviation sector. Tatarstan has also succeeded here, the colleagues from Makhachkala also paid attention to the programme complex of Kazan airport called Mobile Apron as well as a novelty – an off-road car with an anti-drone system. The last device hasn't been tested yet, the technology allows to detect dangerous flying objects and send information to air navigation.

To the Hajj via Makhachkala

Another tourist destination opens big prospects – pilgrimage. Makhachkala has more than half of orders to the Hajj. The airport of the Dagestani capital accounted for over 10,000 out of 20,000 quotas for Russia.

''Dagestan has good experience in the organisation of pilgrimage to holy places to Mecca and Medina. Marva Tour operator works in the republic, its specialists have gained big experience in offering tours to the Hajj and Umrah. They organise pilgrimage for about a half of all pilgrims or Russia and are one of the leaders in Umrah,'' Arsen Pirmagomedov enumerated this idea's advantages.

Passenger traffic at this destination is going up. This year, Russian airlines couldn't provide their planes. This is why Makhachkala has used services of Saudi Arabian Airlines operating flights on Airbus A330. An international terminal is being built now at the airport of Dagestan, which will allow to service including the Hajj programme at a higher level and with fewer costs.

By Vasilya Shirshova. Author’s photo
Tatarstan