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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Petersburg Revamps Struggling Airport

ST.PETERSBURG -- Desperately in need of a better image, St. Petersburg's international airport has taken a major plunge into the world of public relations. With the help of the Swedish Andreasson Public Relations company, the Pulkovo-2 airport ha pulle off a series of dazzling stunts for some 200 guests from the business and diplomatic community to celebrate the opening of a new extension. A merry-looking general director, Boris Demchenko, treated journalists and foreign airline representatives last week to a champagne press conference on board an Ilyushin-86, where he revealed recent efforts to upgrade the airport. The improvements include a new business lounge and new gangways to the aircraft that will allow passengers to bypass the rickety buses that hitherto have ferried them from tarmac to terminal. Later the guests filed into the arrival hall to mill around a lavish buffet as a brass band struck up "New York, New York." A chorus of five girls dressed in military combat gear and flying goggles entered as an air-raid siren sounded and the noise of low-flying aircraft spilled from loud speakers. By the year 2030 Pulkovo-2 airport, Demchenko told a somewhat skeptical audience on board the Ilyushin-86, would handle about 50 million passengers a year -- about 5 million more than London's Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports. Last year, Demchenko said, the airport handled more than a million passengers. This year they are expecting 1.5 million. The airport's present handling capacity, he said, is 5 million passengers a year. Major European airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa have opened new routes out of the city, bringing to a total of 80 the number of flights by foreign airlines and 40 international routes flown by Aeroflot every week. The addition of a series of gangways that allow aircraft to dock at the terminal were supplied by the American company Jetways, costing over $1 million. That has brought investment in Pulkovo-2 to a total of $5 million and 20 billion rubles, Demchenko said. Despite the improvements, much remains to be done. With only six check-in points, frantic passengers afraid of missing their flights find the airport a stressful experience. Other improvements to the airport include the reconstruction of the arrival hall and of a business-class lounge where for $10, upmarket travelers are treated to coffee, snacks, fax and phone facilities all in cozy light blue surroundings. According to Matti Jokinen of SAS Airlines, whose company helped build the business lounge, this waiting area was the first of its kind in the former Soviet Union. He says it costs less than half the price of the one in Moscow operated by Delta Airlines at a cost of $30 per passenger. SAS also intends to set up a joint venture with Aeroflot to improve the check-in system once the airport has been privatized, Jokinen said. That was scheduled to happen this spring, but has been delayed until autumn.