Why Turks and Arabs fly by Begishevo

Foreign air carriers have not delivered a single board at the Zakamye International Airport, despite its expansion

The updated international terminals are preparing to simultaneously open major airports of Tatarstan by the end of August. Kazan International Airport named after G.Tukay is completing the reconstruction of Terminal 1A, expanding the waiting room. But the opening of the new airport complex Begishevo, which was idle due to sanctions, promises to be the main event. “Nothing flies from Nizhnekamsk, because foreign carriers are focused only on large hubs, such as Kazan," Zaur Gadzhiyev, the regional director of ANEX Tour, explained to Realnoe Vremya. Tour operators complain that the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) begins to “suffocate” if two Turkish Boeing 747-800 aircraft land in Kazan at once and point to the need for expansion.

Window to the world: Red Wings provides Zakamye with one flight to Istanbul

Nizhnekamsk Begishevo Airport named after Nikolay Lemaev turned out to be in international air isolation (100% owned by KAMAZ PJSC) on the eve of the completion of its large reconstruction programme worth almost 1 billion rubles. Due to the ban on Russian airlines operating foreign aircraft, Zakamye was almost cut off from entering foreign countries. As follows from the schedule of Begishevo Airport, this summer tourist season, only one regular flight to Istanbul is open instead of the previous expanded programme of direct flights to the resorts of Turkey (Antalya, Dalaman, Bodrum).

According to the online scoreboard, the international service is provided by the Russian airline Red Wings (considered close to Rostec). It operates one flight a week, increasing the flight route to Nizhnekamsk via Kazan. But this, we emphasise, is a regular flight, whereas in popular tourist destinations, foreign air carriers — Arab Fly Dubai and Turkish Azur Air — decided not to extend routes to Zakamye.

“Nothing flies from Nizhnekamsk, because foreign carriers cannot supply additional aircraft," explains the representative of the regional director of Anex Tour, Zaur Gadzhiyev. “In conditions of shortage of aircraft, foreign airlines choose only Kazan.”

In contrast, Russian airlines Aeroflot, Pobeda and others are increasing flights in the direction of Begishevo-Moscow and Begishevo-St. Petersburg. However, Red Wings airline, which opened a window to Europe through Istanbul, is not going to “shut” it.

“The period of flights is until the end of October, but the airline plans to extend the period of flights," the press service of Begishevo told our publication.

Foreign air carriers do not reach Begishevo

Meanwhile, Turkish and Arab carriers that operate flights to popular foreign resorts are in no hurry to extend routes from Kazan to Nizhnekamsk. Now they fly to Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, Dubai (UAE) and Hurghada, but they cannot make a “detour” to Zakamye, as Russian carriers did before.

According to the estimates of tour operators, now 16-20 flights depart from Kazan in a week. Kazan Airport operated such a number in a day, but now — in a week, an acute shortage of boards affects. For this reason, foreign carriers do not fly to Begishevo. “Kazan is a much bigger hub than Begishevo," Gadzhiyev said. According to him, the fleet is now in short supply, so “no one is talking about expansion anymore”.

“There is no time to choose now. What they have been given, and where it is possible to fly, they fly there. If they had been given the opportunity to put additional flights, they would have," believes Rustem Tarzimanov, the sales director of Salavat City Center.

Now tour operators are reconfiguring for the winter season of 2023. Flights to the UAE and Egypt are planned from Kazan, flights will be operated by Fly Dubai and Azur Air. Zakamsk Airport does not fall into the international flight schedule, as foreign airlines again stopped only at Kazan, said Marina Bolotova, the representative of Intourist:

“Before the pandemic, flights of international carriers did not fly to Begishevo," Tarzimanov added. “Neither Turkish Airlines, nor Fly Dubai, nor other foreign carriers flew. There were charter flights to the Turkish coast, to the Emirates, and in principle, that's all. By and large, Begishevo has never been an active international airport.”

Traffic is a secret

It is unknown how the foreign isolation affected the air traffic of Begishevo. Since March of this year, the Federal Air Transport Agency, for obvious reasons, has stopped publishing reports on the number of passengers served at the country's airports. It is only known that in the first two months before the start of the special operation in the Donbass, Nizhnekamsk airport managed to serve 80 thousand passengers. Despite the traditionally “dead” season, it turned out to be noticeably higher than the level of 2021 (then about 60 thousand passengers were transported).

Kazan Airport previously reported a 13% decrease in passenger traffic. Photo: Maksim Platonov/realnoevremya.ru

If it were not for force majeure in the air transportation market, nothing would prevent Begishevo from increasing the pace of flights, since many foreign projects are concentrated in Zakamye, and Alabuga SEZ has become a springboard for Turkish business altogether, tour operators believe. Last year, Begishevo served 643 thousand passengers.

Kazan International Airport, whose annual flow exceeds 2 million people, previously reported a decrease in passenger traffic by 13%. In March, 10,9% fewer passengers were served here than in the same period last year, in April a decrease was 22,1%. The volume of traffic for the period from May 1 to May 25 decreased by 13%, the airport's press service reported earlier.

New Begishevo International terminal is expected by August

The updated Begishevo International terminal is designed to double the flow of passenger service — 200 passengers per hour for arrival and the same amount for departure. Earlier this year, Sergey Romantsov, the chairman of the board of directors of Begishevo and CEO of Kazan Airport, announced its opening in August.

“The construction of the new terminal of international air lines at Begishevo Airport with a capacity of 200 passengers per hour for arrival and the same for departure continues," he told at the board meeting of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Tatarstan.

Sergey Romantsov announced the opening of the international terminal in August. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov, realnoevremya.ru

The Begishevo administration did not confirm or deny these deadlines.

“To date, the second stage of the reconstruction of the Begishevo airport complex has been implemented, including the reconstruction of patrol and intra-airfield roads, as well as the reconstruction of the perimeter fence with equipment and technical means of protection. The area of the new terminal building is 8501,8 sq. m, the press service of the airport told the publication.

At the same time, transformations will continue. According to Begishevo, reconstruction of the runway is planned. It is being in the design stage: “During the works, it is planned to expand the runway to 45 m and lengthen it to 2,902 m (currently 2,499 m long, 42 m wide). The financing of the design is carried out at the expense of the budget of the Republic of Tatarstan.”

For the first time, KAMAZ CEO Sergey Kogogin announced his intention to invest in the construction of a new terminal at Begishevo Airport several years ago at a board meeting of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.

“This is a non-core business for us, but we are now planning the construction of a new terminal, because further growth of the international transportation sector is impossible without it," said Kogogin, adding that passenger traffic in Begishevo has grown by 60% in recent years and “pulled” part of passenger traffic at Moscow airports, including international destinations.

In January 2018, the international air transportation terminal construction project received a positive conclusion from the Glavgosexpertiza of the Russian Federation. The customer for the construction of the second stage of the airport reconstruction is the Federal Air Transport Agency. The reconstruction programme was held within the framework of the Federal Target Programme “Development of the Russian transport industry for 2010-2020" and is designed for 3 years. At the end of 2020, the tender worth 640 million rubles was won by Trust Kamdorstroy JSC.

Repair in Terminal 1A

This year, Kazan IAC named after G.Tukay is completing the reconstruction of Terminal 1A, expanding the waiting room. Its area will increase by 400 square metres.

“Construction works are coming to completion to increase by more than 400 sq. m. m of the waiting area of the international departure terminal 1A," the airport's press service told Realnoe Vremya.

We are talking about the reconstruction of the areas on the second floor of the building. In fact, this is only a repair. If Ankara decides to increase the frequency of flights to Russia to 100 flights a day, then Kazan airport will be able to accept additional boards. “In general, Kazan Airport is ready to increase the number of international flights," the IAC press service said.

Meanwhile, tourist operators complain that Kazan airport begins to “suffocate” if they suddenly have to take two planes with a short time interval, since the capacity of the international terminal is not able to take more than 500 people.

“The expansion of our airport is a long overdue issue," they note. “With today's number of flights, an increase in the area by 400 square metres is enough. But if we look to the future, we need more. Earlier, when they sent a Boeing 747 with a capacity of 500 seats and, in addition to ours, there were flights of Pegasus, Coral, Anex, even more waiting tourists accumulated.

Kazan airport begins to “suffocate” if it suddenly has to take two planes with a short time interval. Photo: realnoevremya.ru

Kazan International Airport can't carry two

The limitations of the terminal also affect the flight schedule. “In Tatarstan, tourists like to fly to Turkey early in the morning and arrive late at night. Accordingly, airlines request an early morning departure time. In this regard, the airport is limited by the capacity of the hall, since they cannot give time to a larger number of air carriers. Therefore, the airport builds a schedule so that one plane arrives, creating a big break. So that the crew has time to unload the plane and bring suitcases, and passengers can pick up luggage and avoid crowding," tour operators note.

If departures can still be regulated somehow, then arrivals are more difficult to. Therefore, queues arise in the arrival area when passing through passport control, and then the crowd flows into the baggage claim area. There is no possibility to expand the baggage claim halls yet, so the Kazan Airport is looking for options for building a new terminal. We should add that not only Moscow airports, but also regional airports are capable of receiving two aircraft at the same time — these are Platov in Rostov-on-Don and Koltsovo in Yekaterinburg.

“We have been waiting for the expansion of the terminal in Kazan for a long time, because it cannot cope with servicing more flights. From the point of view of comfort for tourists, the expansion of the Kazan airport terminal is necessary," tour operators are sure.

Luiza Ignatyeva

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