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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sheremetyevo Halts Charter Flights

Unable to cope with growing hordes of passengers, Sheremetyevo-2 international airport has ordered 10 airlines to move their chartered flights over to the Sheremetyevo-1 terminal or pick less traveler-friendly timeslots.

The change, which went into effect Wednesday, is infuriating the airlines involved, tour operators and dozens of would-be vacationers who have found their flights canceled or rescheduled.

But Sheremetyevo said Thursday that most travelers would not be affected and would only find their passage through the international terminal eased by the new rules.

The regulations, which will last at least until mid-September, ban the 10 airlines from operating charter flights from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The airport said up to eight flights a day fall into that time period. The airlines involved are Sibir, Kavminvodyavia, Pulkovo, AJT, KrasAir, Atlant-Soyuz, IRS-Aero, Aviaenergo, VASO and Continental Airlines.

"This decision was dictated by the current situation at the airport," Oleg Yermakov, a Sheremetyevo deputy director, told journalists Thursday. "What we are doing is optimizing the operation of the airport."

The airport serviced a record 45,000 passengers on July 14 alone.

The Sheremetyevo-1 and -2 terminals, which were built to handle 9 million passengers a year, serviced almost 11 million in 2000. Traffic over the first half of this year shot up 13 percent to more than 5.3 million.

Adding to the problem of overcapacity, the airport recently began repairs on its ramps and one of the two runways.

Moreover, there are not enough personnel to man the terminal's 48 passport windows, Yermakov said. Only up to 20 are open at peak hours.

"These [factors] are not letting us process regular flights without delays," Yermakov said. "Everything we are doing is in the interests of our regular operators, which include Aeroflot and international airlines," he said.

Eighty-two of the 154 airlines at Sheremetyevo are flying regular flights, according to the airport. They include Aeroflot, which accounts for 45 percent of all passenger traffic, and 42 international airlines with up to 30 percent of the traffic. Six airlines are flown by CIS countries and the other 33 are Russian.

Yermakov, while acknowledging that some travelers and airlines were being inconvenienced, said charter flights represent only 10 percent of the airport's business and less than 4 percent of its revenue.

Those inconvenienced by the ban were crying foul Thursday, saying they had not been given enough notice. Sheremetyevo sent out letters to alert the Russian airlines on July 23.

Sibir, the nation's No. 2 air carrier, has had to cancel four flights to Antalya, Turkey, and one to Barcelona, Spain. It had flown 31 charter flights a week out of Sheremetyevo-2. "It's early yet to talk about financial losses," Sibir spokesman Igor Volkov said.

Oleg Lengarov, the general director of Continental Airlines, said he has had to reschedule 10 weekly flights with up to 2,500 passengers.

"This is a blatant disregard for the passengers and a savage stupidity," Lengarov said. "Plans are usually drafted two to three months in advance, but we were notified only on July 23."

The head of the Vand International tour agency, Tatyana Vand, said about 40 disgruntled passengers called Wednesday and 20 more Thursday.

"This looks like sabotage, a horrible decision," she said. "Tourists are unhappy. Everything has been paid for and [their hotel bookings and connecting flights] can't be changed."

However, Sheremetyevo spokesman Vladislav Lebedev said the airport was not seeing any irate travelers.

"The situation in the airport is calm, and we have not received any complaints," Lebedev said.