KrasAir Flies Over to Domodedovo

ITARR-TASSKrasAir said passenger convenience, not costs, was the main reason it decided to leave Sheremetyevo for Domodedovo Airport.
KrasAir said that it will sign an agreement with Domodedovo Airport on Thursday to switch over from Sheremetyevo Airport, a deal that makes Russia's fourth-largest airline also the fourth air carrier to take such a decision this year.

Also, Swissair and its partner airline Sabena, which this summer announced plans to move to Domodedovo, said they intend to swap airports as scheduled despite financial turmoil at Swissair.

Krasnoyarsk-based KrasAir, which flies to both Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo, has been gradually transferring flights to Domodedovo since the completion of a new terminal at the airport late last year, KrasAir spokeswoman Svetlana Volodina said Wednesday.

The agreement to be signed Thursday will make Domodedovo the main Moscow hub for the airline. Starting Monday, KrasAir intends to use Domodedovo to fly 50 flights a week to 16 destinations in Russia and several cities abroad, Volodina said.

A handful of weekly charter flights will continue to fly out of Sheremetyevo, she said.

KrasAir decided to move to Domodedovo to better accommodate passengers, Volodina said, citing the airport's higher capacity and easy access to Moscow as examples. The airport, located south of Moscow, is the only one to have a rail link to the capital.

Other airlines that have moved or announced plans to move to Domodedovo have said they preferred the airport for such amenities. They also have cited factors such as a cut in operating costs of about 25 percent and a better choice of time slots for departures and arrivals.

Airlines that have already switched to Domodedovo are Malta Air and Transaero. Lufthansa and British Airways are also considering the move.

Transportation analysts said Domodedovo will benefit considerably from KrasAir's switch because the airline will bring with it at least half of its passengers, whose number is expected to grow to about 900,000 this year. KrasAir passenger loads are already 30 percent up from last year.

With KrasAir, Domodedovo will also attract a number of foreign travelers bound for the regions, where Krasair is a strong player.

"Some international travelers will prefer KrasAir because of its flexibility. It flies to, say, Krasnoyarsk every day. Aeroflot currently has three flights a week," said Yulia Zhdanova of United Financial Group.

Aeroflot and Sheremetyevo could even stand to gain from KrasAir's departure, she said. Aeroflot will face less competition at Sheremetyevo, while the airport will cut down on its traffic, which is currently about 60 percent over its capacity.

KrasAir's Volodina said that cutting costs "was not a priority" in the decision to change airports.

However, the lower costs at Domodedovo would certainly be welcome for airlines such as Swissair and Sabena.

Swissair this week canceled all flights, including those to Russia, because of financial difficulties exacerbated by the terrorist attacks in the United States last month. Swissair's parent company, SA Group, is expected to sell off part of its business and cut thousands of jobs worldwide.

Markus Albrecht, general manager for Swissair and Belgian airline Sabena in Russia, said it was unclear when Swissair flights would resume to Moscow, but they would start before Oct. 28, the date when the airline is to change airports.

"The flights may resume tomorrow, although it may take a little longer," he said. As for moving to Domodedovo, "there has been no change in our plans," he said.

Sabena, owned by SA Group and the Belgian government, is continuing to fly between Moscow and Brussels as scheduled, he said.