Debt-Ridden AirUnion Resumes Regular Flights

ReutersA woman sleeping at Domodedovo Airport amid AiRUnion delays last week.
Debt-ridden AiRUnion resumed flights from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport over the weekend, ending days of delays caused by soaring prices for jet fuel.

Almost all the delayed flights departed by Friday afternoon, and regular flights began leaving according to schedule, the state-controlled carrier said.

Flights from several regional airports continued to run late Saturday, but the situation returned to normal Sunday, an airline official said by telephone.

AiRUnion, an alliance of five airlines, delayed more than 20 flights -- and stranded 2,500 people -- across the country last week after jet fuel companies severed supplies over debts.

State corporation Russian Technologies, which is taking over control of three of AiRUnion's airlines from the government, estimated the debt at more than $1 billion and pledged Friday to pay for future flights. AiRUnion and fuel suppliers agreed Thursday on a schedule to pay off the debt.

Russian Technologies, in a harsh statement released late Friday, blamed the delays on poor management.

"The shareholders and managers of these airlines didn't ... take effective measures to remove the massive flight delays," the statement said. "Moreover, the private shareholders and many key managers of these airlines weren't even at their workplaces on Aug. 22."

Russian Technologies warned that the problem could return. It said it could not immediately intervene in AiRUnion's operations because it had not yet formally taken over the government stakes.

Under a presidential decree in May, the company is set to receive controlling stakes in two of AiRUnion's airlines, Domodedovo Airlines and KrasAir. It will also have 46.5 percent in Samara Airlines.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last month that Russia's jet fuel prices were the highest in Europe, and he urged the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service to investigate. LUKoil and Gazprom Neft cut prices this month.