Aeroflot Bans Use of Its Name

Aeroflot on Wednesday banned all its subsidiaries from using the airline's name and logo in an attempt to protect its reputation after the weekend crash of a jet operated by subsidiary Aeroflot Nord killed 88 people.

"Now each will use its own brand name and be responsible for its safety on its own," Aeroflot spokeswoman Irina Dannenberg said.

State-controlled Aeroflot has 16 subsidiaries listed on its web site, five of which use the company's name.

Among them are two airlines, Arkhangelsk-based Aeroflot Nord and Aeroflot Don, based in Rostov-on-Don. Aeroflot told Aeroflot Nord to stop using its name hours after a Boeing 737 jet crashed on approach to the Perm airport on Sunday.

Aeroflot-Plus offers charter flights for VIP clients, while Aeroflot-Cargo provides cargo shipments. The fifth company is Aeroflot-Riga, the airline's office in Latvia.

Aeroflot's trademark must provide a guarantee to passengers that the airline's services "correspond to high international standards of quality and safety," Aeroflot said in a statement.

The ban "has been taken to reduce risks for the Aeroflot brand, which is one of the most well-known and respected trademarks with a years-long history in Russia and Europe," the statement said.

Aeroflot will continue to work closely with its subsidiaries, it said.

Aviation analysts said Aeroflot had few options but to impose the ban in light of the headlines generated by the crash. Part of the blame, however, lies with the government, whose prohibitive import duties on foreign planes have made it difficult for Aeroflot to ensure flight safety at its subsidiaries, said Yelena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB.

Aeroflot, whose own fleet is less than five years old, cannot afford newer planes for its subsidiaries because of a 20 percent tax on each imported plane plus an 18 percent value-added tax, Sakhnova said. In theory, Aeroflot could raise ticket prices to pay for newer aircraft, but then it would lose passengers to domestic rivals like KrasAir or S7, which have low prices, she said.

The import duties are aimed at bolstering the domestic aircraft industry.

"The government has economized on the lives of its citizens by [making airlines] buy this junk in order to support the national aircraft industry," Sakhnova said. The Aeroflot Nord 737 jet that crashed was 16 years old.

Calls to Aeroflot Nord's press office went unanswered Wednesday. Aeroflot Don spokesman Dmitry Bakulin declined to comment on the ban.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said they were carrying out a weeklong inspection of aircraft maintenance documents at Aeroflot, Aeroflot Nord and Aeroflot Don for possible air safety violations.

Arkhangelsk prosecutors were also looking at pilots' workload and the quality of jet fuel used on the planes, said Olesya Yunik, a spokeswoman for transport prosecutors in Arkhangelsk.

Prosecutors said Aeroflot and its subsidiaries would be asked to correct any violations and that their staff could face disciplinary action. "If gross violations are discovered, prosecutors could apply to court with a request to shut down the company," said Yelena Velikova, a spokeswoman for transport prosecutors in the Southern Federal District, which includes Rostov-on-Don.

Investigators have said engine failure was the likely reason for Sunday's crash.