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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Government Must Tackle Airport Woes




Almost any passenger who has gone through the hellish gloom and discomfort of arriving at the Sheremetyevo-2 international air terminal is likely to wish Aeroflot well in its quest to have it replaced.


For a city of 11 million people, Moscow is appallingly badly served by its existing airports.


With more passengers arriving and/or departing at Sheremetyevo-2 than at any other transport terminal, the airport is this country's front door.


However, it is far from clear that the nation's biggest airline should be the one to give that door a long overdue makeover.


For one thing, Aeroflot already dominates local air travel to a disturbing degree.


And if it succeeds with its plans to build Sheremetyevo-3, then Aeroflot, Air France and its other partners may well be in a position to dictate terms to other international airlines.


Any airline outside of the putative alliance could find it a struggle to win landing slots at convenient times: So their passengers could find that their planes land or take off at midnight from the gate farthest away from customs points and check-in counters.


The most obvious candidate to take the matter in hand would seem to be Sheremetyevo Co., the state-owned enterprise that runs the existing facilities.


The state of those facilities - including the general air of rude negligence and the mafia-ridden and pestiferous taxi drivers - would seem to count against Sheremetyevo Co. being allowed to play any role at all in fixing a problem that it has helped to create and exacerbate.


But the solution is to fix Sheremyetevo Co. as part of the process of either building a new terminal or upgrading the old one.


For this, the federal government needs to get involved. It controls Sheremyetevo Co. and it has the financial and political might to resolve the many difficulties involved.


The first of those difficulties that needs to be addressed is the problematic relations between Sheremetyevo and the Moscow city and Moscow region administrations - both of whom understandably want a say in running the airport, and a cut of the estimated $200 million to $300 million a year that Sheremetyevo generates.


The airport conundrum is in fact a perfect chance for Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, who has a seat on the Sheremetyevo Co. board, to make his mark with a concrete achievement.


Making investors' and tourists' first and last moments here a pleasure instead of a nightmare would be a giant step forward in restoring the nation's tarnished international image.