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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Airways Says No to Bad Service

British Airways announced Wednesday that it will start flying out of Domodedovo Airport on July 1, in a cross-town move that will cost Sheremetyevo one of its biggest clients.

British Airways said the main reason that it decided to switch airports was a common passenger complaint: shoddy service.

"We in BA have decided to make this move because customer service is key to our business and to our success," said Daniel Burkard, British Airways commercial manager for Eastern Europe.

"Domodedovo is a modern, user-friendly airport with a high level of customer appeal. It has state-of-the-art facilities, a good infrastructure, excellent transfer service and is easily accessible," Burkard said at a news conference.

British Airways will continue to offer 14 flights a week from Moscow, as well as its five flights a week from St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, he said.

Flight schedules will remain the same for now, although the airline is hoping to obtain an 8:05 a.m. time slot by next winter or summer 2004. British Airways, which currently offers 5:45 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. flights to London, had been trying for several years to get a morning time slot at Sheremetyevo.

The move is a big feather in Domodedovo's cap. The airport, which completed a $300 million refurbishment in 2001, has already wooed away Swiss Airlines and Air Malta from Sheremetyevo, along with Russian carriers Krasair and Transaero. Sibir moved to Domodedovo from Vnukovo.

Domodedovo general director Sergei Rudakov said British Airways' decision was the biggest vote of confidence yet in the airport's services.

He said he expected more airlines to make the move by the summer.

British Airways would not say how many passengers it flew to and from Sheremetyevo last year, saying only that the number on Moscow and St. Petersburg routes grew 10 percent to more than 250,000.

The airline had been considering switching airports for two years.

In making the decision, British Airways will be able to offer passengers a dedicated check-in area and fast service at immigration, customs and security checkpoints. Business and first class passengers will have access to a British Airways lounge.

Passengers also will be able to check in at Paveletsky Station and make the 40-minute trip to the airport by rail.

Sheremetyevo would not say Wednesday how much business it will lose with the airline's departure. Last year, it said it serves 200,000 British Airways passengers a year and makes $3 million in fees.

Aeroflot accounts for well over half of its business, while Lufthansa is its largest foreign client with 400,000 passengers last year.

Finnair, a partner with British Airways in the OneWorld alliance, said Wednesday that it was not considering shifting to Domodedovo.

Sheremetyevo has seen its passenger traffic steadily decline over the past year amid a management shake-up and a dispute over much-needed expansion plans.

Built for the 1980 Olympic Games, Sheremetyevo's international Terminal 2 has been unable to cope with the post-Soviet travel boom. Travelers often complain of poor infrastructure and rude staff.

Some 10.8 million passengers went through the airport's domestic and international terminals last year, down from 11.6 million in 2001.

Sheremetyevo has been trying to spruce up its image, but the changes have been mostly cosmetic -- such as free baggage carts.

Sheremetyevo insisted Wednesday that British Airways was just trying to cut costs.

Domodedovo says its services cost 30 percent less.

"According to British Airways representatives, the sole reason behind this decision is economic," Sheremetyevo said in a terse statement.

The British Airways official who informed Sheremetyevo general director Yevgeny Bakhteyev about the airline's decision Wednesday morning said he and other officials had not mentioned costs.

"I am quite taken aback," said Graham Cromarty, the airline's director for customer service and operations for Russia, when told of Sheremetyevo's statement.

The statement also said British Airways has never "officially" complained about poor service.

Reached by telephone, Bakhteyev refused to comment and hung up.

Burkard, contacted later in the day, reiterated that the driving factor behind the switch was Sheremetyevo's poor service.

"[The statement] just completes my picture about Sheremetyevo," he said.