9 Airlines Grounded Over Unpaid Debts

Nine airlines will be grounded by the end of the week due to overdue debts, aviation authorities announced Wednesday.

Three of the airlines -- Interavia, Dalavia and Omskavia -- had all but suspended flights already, stranding hundreds of passengers.

Moscow-based Interavia, which topped the list with an overdue debt of 19.2 million rubles, has not flown since Oct. 9, missing 23 flights as of Wednesday, according to the web site of Domodedovo Airport.

Other big debtors include state-owned Dalavia, with 18.4 million rubles in overdue payments, and Omskavia, part of the troubled AirUnion alliance, with late payments of 4.9 million rubles.

The Federal Navigation Authority said the airlines had repeatedly been asked to pay their debts and that, in line with legislation, they had gotten a warning, followed by restriction of services on charter flights and now suspension of services for all flights, Interfax reported.

The process of withdrawing Interavia's license might start on Oct. 26, the report said.

An Interavia representative at Domodedovo Airport said hundreds of passengers were waiting for information about when they could expect to fly.

"We do not know when the airline's services will resume," he said. "We do not know anything except that the airline is deeply in debt and we have not been paid for three months."

Domodedovo spokesman Ildar Tuzmuhametov said the airport was waiting for the carrier to take action but would not comment on how soon the problems might be resolved or what was causing the delays.

He stressed that the delays were an internal problem of Interavia. "Flights of all other carriers at Domodedovo are landing and departing on time," he said.

High fuel prices have caused problems for domestic carriers, resulting in last month's government bailout of AiRUnion and the transfer of its stake to state-run Russian Technologies with instructions to form a new carrier. AiRUnion's assets are being folded into a new holding, together with Atlant-Soyuz, controlled by the Moscow city government and several regional airlines.

Russian Technologies said it would take at least nine months to create the holding. The state corporation will repay $100 million of AiRUnion's estimated $800 million debt and plans to renegotiate the rest.

The Federal Navigation Authority said that the other airlines that will be grounded as of Friday are Tesis, Vyborg, Aeroshchit, Irkutsk Bezbokov ASK ROSTO, Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant and Buguruslanskoye Letnoye Uchilishche.