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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BA in Talks To Switch Airports

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Domodedovo Airport is in negotiations with British Airways to woo the London-based carrier away from Sheremetyevo Airport.

If the airline should move, Domodedovo will be the first Moscow airport to upgrade its status from a second-tier player, analysts said. Domodedovo just weeks ago clinched a deal with European airlines Swissair and Sabena to transfer from Sheremetyevo.

Daniel Burkard, British Airways commercial manager for Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, met Thursday with Domodedovo general director Sergei Rudakov to discuss the move, tentatively set for the spring of next year.

They agreed to put concrete proposals on the table later this month when British Airways director for customer services and operations, Mike Street, flies into town, BA spokesman Andrei Loboda said.

Rudakov said he was confident the talks Thursday would bear fruit.

"It was not for the first time that we showed the airport to BA, but this time we discussed more concrete matters of cooperation and agreed to bring the negotiations up to the level of top managers of the airline," Rudakov said Friday.

Such a move "would make a sensation and change Domodedovo's status from secondary to a leading position," said Yulia Zhdanova, transportation analyst at the United Financial Group brokerage.

"If such an important carrier as BA moves it will be a great blow for Sheremetyevo and for Aeroflot, which will lose transit passengers," she said. "VIP and business class passengers will leave."

Domodedovo, which last year completed a $90 million overhaul of its terminal, is becoming increasingly popular with both domestic and foreign carriers. Earlier this year, the first international carrier, Air Malta, moved its services to Domodedovo. Shortly after, it was followed by domestic air carrier Transaero.

Swissair and Sabena last month signed an agreement with Domodedovo to move all of their flights as of Oct. 28. Lufthansa is also considering using Domodedovo as an alternative airport in bad weather.

Domodedovo, located 35 kilometers south of downtown Moscow, is the only airport accessible by rail, from Paveletsky Station. The airport also plans to soon offer passenger check-in at the station.

Domodedovo services more than 60 scheduled and about 100 charter airlines. Some 2.8 million passengers went through the airport last year, and the airport is looking to increase traffic by 50 percent to 60 percent this year. The airport's international wing has capacity for 1,100 passengers an hour.

The crowded Sheremetyevo Airport is now operating at overcapacity, a factor that led Swissair and Sabena to decide to change airports.

"BA is considering the move to Domodedovo because for BA the interests and comfort of passengers is of top priority," Loboda said.

Rudakov said BA would save 25 percent on its airport costs at Domodedovo.

Sheremetyevo does not want to see BA change airports and is ready to negotiate with the airline, Sheremetyevo spokesman Vladislav Lebedev said Sunday.

British Airways operates 14 flights a week to Moscow and five a week to St. Petersburg on Boeing 737 and 747 aircraft. The airline, which is considering expanding to Yekaterinburg and Rostov-on-Don next year, estimates it carried 250,000 passengers between Britain and Russia in 2000.

Rudakov said BA would have plenty of room to operate while existing airlines would not be left in a pinch because the airport is doubling the capacity of its international wing. The expansion is to be completed by the summer of 2002.