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Sheremetevo-3 will Mess up Koltsovo’s European Plans

Sheremetevo-3 will Mess up Koltsovo’s European Plans

07.07.2009 — Analysis

Once the Moscow airport Sheremetevo-3 opens the Ekaterinburg airport Koltsovo will loose the prospects for the development of direct international services to Europe. A RusBusinessNews observes has found out that the fight for the Urals passenger between the two airports has already began.


It became totally apparent that the economic crisis will not be an obstacle for the largest Russian carrier Aeroflot in putting into operation the new airport Sheremetevo-3 in the nearest future. The time for the completion of construction that had begun in 2005 has been repeatedly moved forward. The Aeroflot's press service assured RusBusinessNews that the first flight out of the new terminal is scheduled for August 2009.

The Sheremetevo-3 terminal is designed as a large interchange - hub of Aeroflot and its SKY TEAM partners. In essence, Sheremetevo-3 with a throughput capacity of 12 million passengers per year will become the first in Russia full-fledged international hub, the main air gateway into the country. The implementation of this project will enable the serious improvements to the passenger service quality, attract additional transit passengers, which will make Aeroflot and the Russian aviation as a whole more competitive.

However, this is unlikely to please the Ekaterinburg Koltsovo airport or carriers running services from Koltsovo to European destinations. The development of Koltsovo is also planned as an international hub offering direct international services including (and even primarily) to Europe. Scheduled direct non-stop services from Ekaterinburg to 20 foreign destinations including Prague, Helsinki, Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt etc. are running today.

The active development of direct services from Ekaterinburg to European destinations abroad is seriously helped by the appalling transit capacities of Moscow. Up until now the change from one plane to another is done with the minimum set of services: passengers have to make their own way from the internal Russian airport Sheremetevo-1 to the international airport Sheremetevo-2, and these terminals are 5 kilometres apart. Luggage is often lost, passengers miss the connecting flight when the incoming service is late.

These inconveniences may explain the fact that Aeroflot, so far, can not compete with other carriers running services from Koltsovo for the passengers flying from the Urals to Europe. In the total amount of Aeroflot's passengers flying Ekaterinburg-Moscow-Ekaterinburg the share of transit passengers is 23% (About 27 thousand in 2008, only 3.31% of the amount of international passengers in Koltsovo).

The leading Russian carrier, however, still refuses point blank to start running direct services from the Urals megapolises to European capitals. Aeroflot representatives explain this by the lack of stable demand for these routes. If you start running scheduled services along an international route, there should be at least one flight a day. And this is true, numbers of passengers in the Urals are not sufficient for this, the majority of flights from Koltsovo to Europe are offered two-three time a week.

The more serious reason is in the imminent opening of Sheremetevo-3, this terminal will make connections between Aeroflot flights from the Urals and Siberia with services to Europe run by both Aeroflot and its SKY TEAM partners. This will lead to the situation when there will be plenty of connected routes (two routes in one) which will let you go from the Urals to European destinations and back at the cost and in the timeframe similar to those offered by Koltsovo carriers. Aeroflot already runs services from Ekaterinburg to Moscow and back 4 times a day and, if necessary, the frequency of flights can be increased.

And, at long last, the Moscow service will match international standards. The main design parameters of Sheremetevo-3 should ensure the B standard of comfort according to IATA guidelines on airport development design for the period until 2015. The time from touchdown to the moment of the passenger leaving the airport must be no longer than 45 minutes, registration for international flights - no more than 2 minutes, registration for internal flights - no longer than 1.5 minutes. There will be 151 check-in points in Sheremetevo-3, this includes 39 points for transfer passengers and outsize luggage check-in and 24 self-service check-in points (CUSS).

The new terminal will have an automated luggage handling system with the capacity of 5523 pieces of luggage per hour. The system includes 5 circular belts for passengers arrived with international flights and 3 for internal passengers. In order to speed up and improve the luggage handling process and to advance the security the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system will be employed in the new terminal; this will speed up the luggage processing by 90% on average.

Passengers and visitors of the airport can use desktop computers in the business centre or access the world wide web using own laptop computers or other devices equipped with necessary units thanks to the state-of-the-art wireless technology Wi-Fi.

The new terminal will house 25 duty free and duty paid shops (15,000 square metres) offering fashion wear, footwear, and accessories from latest collections of the world leading designers, souvenirs, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products, perfumes and cosmetics, audio, electronics, and photo, travel goods, confectionery, printed matter, delicatessen, and much more.

Here you can eat in 18 catering outlets which are open around the clock. But it seems that the main competitive advantage of Sheremetevo-3 in comparison to direct flights from Koltsovo will be the choice of any day of the week to fly to virtually any European megapolis. The example with the Hungarian carrier Malev is quite illustrative here; they were running the Ekaterinburg-Budapest service four times a week. Malev closed this route focusing all their efforts on the daily flights from Budapest to Moscow. We should note that currently 49% of Malev shares is owned by Vnesheconombank which transferred the airline management function to Aeroflot. This is why the move of the Russian operations of the Hungarian carrier to Moscow is not just the result of services optimisation. This fact must be viewed as a first competition encounter of not yet commissioned Sheremetevo-3 and Koltsovo.

"Any alternative routing will, one way or another, compete with the traditional flights to Europe from Ekaterinburg, - commented for RusBusinessNews Sergey Dotsenko, the Commercial Director of Koltsovo airport, the developing situation. - The degree of the impact will depent on many factors which passengers take into account when choosing between a non-stop flight and a transfer via another airport. This includes the frequency of flights - the possibility to fly when you need to - the length of the wait for the connecting flight in the airport of transfer, the transfer technology itself, for instance whether it is necessary to get the luggage in the transit airport, and, of course, the price of the fare - what kind of tariff policies are employed by the carriers".

So, how should Ekaterinburg airport develop its international activity strategy in this situation? Beyond doubt the direct flights to Europe will remain and attractive option, especially if we take into account the healthy ambitions of the main Koltsovo based carrier, the Ural Airlines. Nevertheless the emphasis will be made on the development of the connections network to countries of the CIS and Asia. An indicative gesture in this respect is the fact that the Ural Airlines on 5 July 2009 started running the scheduled service on the route Ekaterinburg-Peking; the carrier is planning to use the capital of China as a transfer point for travel to Japan and countries of the South-East Asia. Scheduled flights from Ekaterinburg to Tokyo will most likely be the next step.

Pavel Kober

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