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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lufthansa Switching to Domodedovo

APLufthansa planes in Frankfurt in May. The company said joining AiRUnion would expand its Russia connections.
Lufthansa will switch its Moscow flights from Sheremetyevo to Domodedovo Airport from next summer in an effort to provide better links with other Star Alliance members, the airline announced Wednesday.

In a connected development, Lufthansa also said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Domodedovo-based air alliance AiRUnion, designed to open up Russian and European routes.

"By shifting our operations to Domodedovo, we will once again be able to work with our partners under one roof and offer our passengers a standardized service," Lufthansa CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber said in a statement.

When Lufthansa's current agreement with Sheremetyevo expires in March, the switch will allow the carrier to coordinate flight schedules more easily with other Star Alliance members, a spokeswoman said. Set up in 1997, Star Alliance is the oldest airline alliance in the world and has 17 members.

Lufthansa will be the seventh Star Alliance carrier flying to Domodedovo, joining Swiss, Austrian Airlines, bmi, Singapore Airlines, Spanair and Thai Airways. Lufthansa plans to fly 10 flights per day from Moscow to Germany.

A spokeswoman for Domodedovo operator East Line Group said the move showed that large-scale investment in the airport over the past few years was now paying off. Over the past five years $620 million has been spent on the airport's reconstruction, with a further $250 million being spent this year, she said.

The airport, the largest in Eastern Europe, now handles 15 million passengers annually and has become the leading hub for destinations within Russia.

Sheremetyevo officials insisted the move was not set in stone.

"As yet, it is only a memorandum of understanding between Lufthansa and Domodedovo. We have an agreement with Lufthansa until March 31, 2008, and we are continuing to talk with them," spokeswoman Irina Kolesnikova said. "To say that this decision is the final one is impossible."

"We don't think that this is a major problem but simply part of the business. If one airline leaves then another airlines comes in," Kolesnikova said.

A Lufthansa spokeswoman refused to comment on Sheremetyevo's response but said the intention to switch to Domodedovo was clear.

Aviaport analyst Oleg Panteleyev refused to speculate on the how much the Lufthansa deal would be worth to Domodedovo, but said he had heard speculation that a sizeable discount was offered.

When Vnukovo Airport was reported to be looking to lure Lufthansa, officials there estimated a deal would be worth around $30 million per year.

Although several large carriers have defected to Domodedovo in the past few years, Panteleyev explained that it boiled down to Star Alliance airlines shifting to Domodedovo and members of rival alliance Sky Team, including Aeroflot, sticking to Sheremetyevo.

"Originally Lufthansa was looking to team up with Aeroflot but then Aeroflot decided to join Sky Team instead," Panteleyev said.

The move to Domodedovo will also help Lufthansa's cooperation with AiRUnion, the German airline said in a separate statement.

"Together with AiRUnion, we will be able to provide a dense network of connections within Russia for our passengers," Mayrubher at Lufthansa said.

Lufthansa and AiRUnion insisted that plans were still at an embryonic stage. "This is the first step into a partnership," Lufthansa spokeswoman Eline Dermaut said. Research was being conducted into possible cooperation, she said.

Eventually a "co-share flight" scheme could be established between the airlines, Dermaut said, meaning that passengers would be able to fly from Europe with Lufthansa and then within Russia with AiRUnion on a single ticket.

Panteleyev suggested that AiRUnion could join Star Alliance.

AiRUnion spokeswoman Olga Trapeznikova confirmed that AiRUnion planned to join an alliance, but said is was too early to give a precise date.