''It will be possible to talk about 3,35 million passengers in a year''

Director General of Kazan International Airport Aleksey Starostin — about the opening of flights to Paris, simplified pre-flight procedures and neighbourhood with Kazan Expo

''It will be possible to talk about 3,35 million passengers in a year''
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Kazan International Airport has finished the year 2018 with record rates by the volume of airfreight, transporting over three million passengers. At the same time, the significant growth both in domestic and international flights is not solely the merit of the World Cup, emphasizes Director General of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) Aleksey Starostin. In the interview with Realnoe Vremya, he spoke about the technological innovations of the airport, ambitious plans to expand the route network and create a new ''city of the future'' — Aerotropolis.

''I would not argue that the growth in traffic is associated only with the World Cup''

Mr. Starostin, the final figures for the year 2018 are already known. Can you call the year successful for Kazan International Airport?

We can say with confidence that we have finished the year 2018 successfully. The final performance indicators fully meet our expectations. Kazan International Airport served 3,141,000 passengers, which is by 20 per cent more than in 2017 (then 2 million 620,000 passengers were transported). The number of flights increased by 15,4 per cent — in 2018, 18,000 of them were performed.

Photo: Maksim Platonov

Last year we opened new destinations to Alanya, Tehran, Bologna, Ovda (Israel), Minsk, Haikou, Batumi and flights to Tbilisi, which are operated by two airlines — Georgian Airways and Pobeda, as well as domestic flights to Makhachkala, Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Omsk, Voronezh, Chelyabinsk, Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Belgorod. Earlier flights to Sharjah and Osh (Kyrgyzstan) were resumed.

If we look at domestic and international routes separately, we will see the following figures: in domestic flights, the increase was 17,9 per cent, in international flights – 23,1 per cent. In absolute figures it is 2,120,000 and 1,129,000 respectively. In general, we can say that for the first time in the history of the republic it has been achieved such a high rate in terms of air traffic for one year. Excluding flights operated within FIFA 2018, the route network of Kazan Airport numbered 81 destinations, 48 of them — international.

To what extent is the growth of indicators associated with the World Cup?

I would not argue that the growth of traffic volumes is associated only with the World Cup. Yes, indeed, during the matches in the summer of 2018, we recorded the highest growth rates of passenger traffic. Even if we take a specific day, from 6 to 7 July alone — the day of the quarterfinals match — we transported 26,153 passengers — this is the all-time record of the airport. Let me note, Kazan International Airport worked in the normal mode. Nevertheless, a significant increase was recorded throughout the year, not only during the championship.

Photo: Dmitry Rezanov

In addition to international destinations, Pobeda airlines is going to launch a major flight programme for important domestic routes: to St. Petersburg and Moscow, to Sochi, Anapa and other cities

''We hope to add Paris, Munich, Girona and long-awaited Tel Aviv to the route network''

What are the forecasts for the year 2019: in terms of passenger traffic, dynamics of the number of destinations?

We plan to increase passenger traffic by another 6-7 per cent. That is, in a year it will be possible to talk about the figure of 3,350,000 passengers, it will be a good indicator. By the way, if we consider the top 20 airports in Russia by dynamics of growth in passenger traffic, we are already the first among the airports of the Volga Federal District and the third in Russia. Already in January of this year the flights to Krasnoyarsk, Usinsk and Salekhard have been launched. During the New Year holidays, flights to Yerevan were opened, the work is underway to open flights to Astrakhan and Irkutsk.

In general, in 2019 we hope to increase the frequency on popular flights and expand the route network, adding Paris, Munich, Girona, Budapest and long-awaited Tel Aviv to the international destinations. We hope that these new international routes will be operated by UVT Aero, Red Wings and Pobeda airlines, which became our partner in 2015. The work is underway to return Lufthansa to our market.

In addition to international destinations, Pobeda airlines is going to launch a major flight programme on important domestic routes: to St. Petersburg and Moscow (Vnukovo) — on a daily basis, to Sochi, Anapa and other cities. I would like to note that the plans can be adjusted: we monitor trends and analyze demand in real time.

Photo: Maksim Platonov

''Among all international destinations, the largest number of passengers were transported to Antalya''

An interesting topic is the cooperation of the IAC with Turkish tour operators. The passenger traffic to Turkey grows steadily from year to year. What do you think explains the 'Turkish phenomenon'?

Yes, Turkey is very popular among our tourists: in 2018 the largest number of passengers among all international destinations was served to Antalya — 454,000, and the annual increase was 20,3 per cent.

As we all know, Turkey offers passengers a developed infrastructure, good sightseeing opportunities, comfortable climatic conditions, low cost of tours and simplified visa regime. The popularity of other Turkish resorts has increased significantly — the volume of transportation to Bodrum increased by 87,9%, to Dalaman by 31,9%, Istanbul — plus 24,4%. The average load factor of the new flight to Turkish Alanya, which opened in 2018, was 94%.

But I think it is necessary to note that Russian resorts are becoming more popular: the increase by flights Kazan-Anapa was 261%, Kazan-Sochi – 37,2%, passenger traffic for Kazan-Mineralnye Vody route increased more than 7 times.

Does the airport run special promotion campaigns for Turkish operators, for example, in relation to operation tariffs. Do you expect the coming of the low-cost airline from Turkey to Kazan Airport?

We are very sensitive to the wishes of all air carriers without exception: we respond quickly to their proposals, we always try to find mutually beneficial cooperation schemes. All partners create comfortable conditions of service and conduct joint promotions.

As for low-cost airlines from Turkey, we have been working with the Turkish airline Onur Air for many years (regular flights to Antalya and Alanya), and since 2017 — with the company Atlasglobal (Antalya). These carriers are considered low-cost, and their flights from Kazan have an average load of more than 90%. Not to mention our long-time partner Turkish Airlines, which flies from Kazan to Istanbul for almost 13 years. Yes, it's not a low-cost carrier, however, the tariff line and offers make flights more affordable.

Photo: Maksim Platonov

''Passengers with electronic boarding passes now only need to show a QR code''

How is the airport infrastructure developing, is the technological modernization continuing?

In October 2018, a single airport management centre was created — Matrix project management system, which includes representatives of key ground handling services for aircrafts and passengers. The decision to develop a new technological system was made in order to reduce financial costs, given the growth of air traffic and the rich experience of major international events. Matrix allows to automatically plan the resources of the airport, monitor the process of performing tasks in real time, receive and process data for billing for the provision of airport services.

After the introduction of the system, we adjusted the work of ground services and received an increase in the regularity of flights, optimized the technological schedules of aircraft maintenance, which reduced the number of flight delays. A technological schedule for aircraft maintenance with a minimum parking time was introduced. In general, this innovation has significantly improved the speed and quality of passenger service, as well as to obtain a tangible economic effect.

What about the level of service?

As for the level of service, we are continuously working to improve the quality of services. Starting from February 25, with self-service online check-in, passengers are given the opportunity to pass pre-flight procedures at the airport, presenting a boarding pass, issued in electronic form, and not on paper. In other words, passengers who have checked in online and received electronic boarding passes from airlines no longer need to present them in printed form. It is enough only to provide employees of the airport the display of a smartphone or tablet with QR-code of their e-ticket.

Photo: Maksim Platonov

The technical equipment of the airport fully allows to serve passengers in accordance with the new technology, which we successfully used in the test mode in April 2018. At the same time, as before, passengers can use the devices of self-printing boarding passes or get a boarding pass, issued on paper at the check-in desks.

The mobile application of Kazan Airport is actively developing: the list of interactive services is significantly expanding. Through the application, one can pay for parking, receive notifications about the flight status and much more. In short, we pay serious attention to the level of service.

As far as we know, last year Kazan International Airport also paid much attention to VIP passengers.

Yes, the new business hall — AirLounge — opened in the common area of the terminal 1. Advanced design solutions were introduced when developing the project. The hall is designed for passengers of all airlines. It can comfortably accommodate about 40 guests, including the youngest travellers, who will be provided with a separate cozy corner. An important feature of this lounge-zone is the possibility of presence with the passenger accompanying persons.

Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Aerotropolis is a small town with efficient logistics and commercial infrastructure, the central element of which is the air harbor. This model can significantly increase the speed of doing business. This is what we strive for

Kazan Expo — the most important stage of the airport development concept as Aerotropolis

In 2018, Kazan International Airport has a new ''neighbour'' — the international exhibition centre Kazan Expo. How does this neighbourhood affect the operation of the airport?

Kazan Expo is the second largest and only exhibition centre in Russia connected to the airport and the electric train station by a direct warm passage. Indeed, the construction of the complex was not only a new stage in the improvement of the business infrastructure of the Republic of Tatarstan, but also an important stage in the implementation of the concept of the airport as Aerotropolis.

Aerotropolis is a small town with efficient logistics and commercial infrastructure, the central element of which is the air harbor. At the same time, all the opportunities typical for a modern metropolis are presented in aerotropolis: commerce, business, logistics, entertainment and housing. This model can significantly increase the speed of doing business. That is what we are striving for.

Also, in accordance with the concept of ''airport — aerotropolis'', the logistics centre Post of Russia was launched, cooperation with the largest cargo operators in Europe and Asia is developing, it is planned to expand the global air service area, the construction of hotels and other innovations. Thus, the air harbor is increasingly becoming a centre of attraction for various fields of activity: transportation, business aviation, financial operations, tourist flows, exhibition activities and so on.

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