Traffic losses but no bankruptcies among Russian air carriers in 2020

Traffic losses but no bankruptcies among Russian air carriers in 2020

Russian airlines carried by 46% less passengers last year than in 2019. Carriers serving primarily regional market registered milder traffic declines compared to airlines whose business model is largely focused on international flights including Aeroflot.

Russia’s best performing airline lost only 2,7% of its traffic in 2020, reports Russian Aviation Insider noting that Russian carriers coped with the coronavirus crisis better than their foreign competitors. According to detailed data on the industry’s operational results for 2020 published by Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport, none of the country’s 35 airlines increased passenger traffic last year, but none of them also declared bankruptcies, which looks reasonably decent amid the global air travel industry setback.

Overall, the country’s airlines carried 6,24 million passengers in 2020, which was a 46% fall compared to the previous year. Twenty largest airlines collectively served 97% of the total passenger traffic. State-backed Aeroflot managed to keep its leading position thanks to the company’s strong performance in the first quarter of the year, which wasn’t affected by the virus. In the remaining nine months of 2020, the national carrier was surpassed by privately-run S7 Airlines, as closed borders significantly reduced Aeroflot’s international flights.

As for the rest of the top five, Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda climbed to the third position surpassing its sister company Rossiya Airlines. The joint market share of Russia’s top-five airlines (Aeroflot, S7 Airlines, Pobeda, Rossiya and Ural Airlines) increased from 64,6% of the total passenger traffic in 2019 to 68,4% in 2020.

Aeroflot, whose business model is largely focused on international flights, suffered serious traffic losses in 2020. Photo: Clay Gilliland

Several airlines seem to have adapted to crisis conditions better than others, as their traffic levels decreased less than the industry average. Regional operator Azimuth Airlines, which operates 13 Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, suffered the smallest traffic decline (2,7%) last year and thus climbed significantly in the ranking (from 18th to 11th position). Pobeda and Nordavia lost 11,7% and 19,5% year on year respectively and both improved their positions. On the other hand, the carriers that were focused mainly on international travel lost half of their traffic or more. Besides Aeroflot (–60,9% compared to 2019), the largest decline was registered by Azur Air (–66,7%) and Ikar (-64,8%). Charter airline I-Fly specialising on serving tourist flows between Russia and China lost between 67% and 79% of its passenger traffic and dropped out of the top-20 ranking.

Overall, Russia’s large domestic air travel market supported by the country’s geography and relatively mild travel restrictions has helped Russian airlines get through the hardest year in civil aviation history, considers Russian Aviation Insider.

By Anna Litvina