Low-coster “Pobeda” Opens a New Base in Sheremetyevo

Photo Credit: Dmitry Ivanov (IG: ivanov_dv_aero)

It will account for about 11% of the company’s passenger traffic in 2021.

11% of the projected passenger traffic of the low-cost airline in 2021 will fall on customers at Sheremetyevo. “In total, we want to transport 13.5 million people in 2021. Only from Sheremetyevo – 1.5 million people,” said the Director General of the company Andrei Kalmykov at a press briefing.

In 2020, when the company completely stopped flights for two months (April – May), the passenger traffic amounted to 9.1 million people, in 2019 – 10.3 million people. According to the strategy of the Aeroflot Group (Aeroflot, Pobeda and Rossiya Airlines), by 2028 the low-cost airline should carry almost half of the group’s customers – 55-65 million people per year out of 130 million. Last year, all Aeroflot airlines transported 30.2 million people.

Vedomosti wrote about the rollout of code-sharing between Pobeda and Aeroflot in November. The arrangement assumes that the low-cost airline will operate some of the flights to Sheremetyevo, which were previously operated by Aeroflot, with the same codes. In the Moscow hub, passengers will be transferred to long-haul Aeroflot flights. The arrangement will work for the opposite destination – passengers travelling from abroad to the region will have a transfer and a change of carrier at Sheremetyevo. It will be possible to buy tickets for these flights on the websites of both carriers.

Previously, Pobeda always operated Moscow flights only from Vnukovo. Also, the carrier flies intensively on the regional route network bypassing Moscow.

To operate new flights, Pobeda this year will sublease 10 Boeing 737-800 airliners from Aeroflot, which are re-equipped according to Aeroflot’s standards: 189 seats instead of 158 as it is at Aeroflot. “Two planes have already been repainted, we will receive them in April and start flying in May. In the summer, 10 planes will fly from Sheremetyevo. Next year, another 24 will come from the Aeroflot fleet,” Kalmykov said. In total, the carrier should receive 50 Boeing from the parent company.

Kalmykov said that on flights from Sheremetyevo, the rules for the carry-on and checked luggage as well as the Pobeda’s pricing policy will remain the same: “All fares will be based on the same principles as from Vnukovo – dynamic pricing (prices depend on demand – Vedomosti), and we keep our minimum tariffs of 499 and 999 rubles.”

In addition, Pobeda expects to keep the same turnaround time at Sheremetyevo as it was able to achieve at Vnukovo – 25 minutes. During this time, the company manages to deplane passengers and seat new ones, unload/load the luggage, clean the cabin, fill with water, and refuel the plane. For comparison: Aeroflot’s aircraft turnaround time is 1.5 hours on average, says a Vedomosti source in the aviation industry.

Boeing pointed out that Pobeda is the most efficient airline in operating its aircraft and thus provides them with high flight time: the more the aircraft flies, the more money it earns, increasing the operating efficiency of the carrier.

“Sheremetyevo guarantees us the same minimum turnaround time as it is in Vnukovo. We plan to keep at least the same seat occupancy rate, and ideally increase it. Now the average occupancy rate is 93%,” Kalmykov said. At the same time, he added that if the low-cost airlines’ planes are often sent to the third runway (RWY) of Sheremetyevo, then “problems may arise.” The third runway was put into operation in September 2019, this is the farthest runway from the airport – to get to the terminals, the plane has to taxi along the bridge over the highway. The taxi time from the third runway to terminal D, from where Pobeda will fly, is approximately 40 minutes.

An airport representative told Vedomosti that the Pobeda planes will take off from all three runways. “In accordance with the contractual obligations, Sheremetyevo will ensure the turnaround of Pobeda Airlines within the allocated time. For this, the airport has planned and will allocate the necessary production resources and qualified personnel,” an SVO representative told Vedomosti. For the airport Pobeda is not the first low-cost carrier. We had a fruitful experience of cooperation with one of the pioneers of the low-cost segment of the market in Russia – Avianova Airline. Avianova, which started operating in 2009, was closed due to unprofitability and debts at the end of 2011.

Andrey Kramarenko, a leading expert at the Center for Infrastructure Projects at the Higher School of Economics, believes that the risks of the Pobeda project at Sheremetyevo are not associated with the turnaround time of the aircraft and taxiing, but in the proposed product. “So far, the Pobeda and Aeroflot code-sharing arrangement at Sheremetyevo does not have a seamless product. If we are talking about transfer flights, the most important thing is to provide comparable conditions for carry-on and checked luggage and service for both segments of flights. Pobeda Airline service may be a light shock for many Aeroflot passengers, the connection time will need to be increased to check in carry-on luggage from an Aeroflot flight to baggage on a Pobeda flight, since the companies have different requirements,” the expert says.

As a result, most of the passengers of the Aeroflot Group from these destinations may go to competitors, for example, to S7, the expert believes. Kramarenko also clarified that Pobeda, as an ultra-low-cost airline, could independently increase passenger traffic in 2021, but the rollout of a joint product with Aeroflot requires a change in the low-cost airline model, which may hinder it.

Oleg Panteleev, Executive Director of the Aviaport Agency, believes that in Russia, for many, the cost of a ticket is becoming the main criterion when choosing an airline. “Taking into account the tariff policy of Pobeda, the occupancy of seats can be ensured,” the expert says. “But I still don’t understand how Aeroflot’s premier passengers will fly on Pobeda,” he adds.

The Director General of Aeroflot, Mikhail Poluboyarinov, promises that he will deal with everything personally. “For me personally, our code-share agreement remains a complex tool. Before allowing passengers to fly to these destinations we – the management and board members – plan to try out how it works: how we fly, how we check in luggage. We plan take the most expensive carry-on luggage and see what will happen to it after the Pobeda flight. We understand that this is not trivial, and we will try to work it out on ourselves,” he told the reporters.


Pobeda Airline at Sheremetyevo

From Sheremetyevo, Pobeda will fly to 13 destinations – 12 Russian and 1 international. In May, flights will begin to Perm and Cheboksary, in June – to Gorno-Altaisk, Ekaterinburg, Nalchik, Petrozavodsk, Sochi, Ufa and Antalya, in July – to Barnaul, Vladikavkaz, Mineralnye Vody and Ulyanovsk, the company said. At the same time, Aeroflot will continue to operate flights from Sheremetyevo to Ekaterinburg, Sochi and Antalya.

Anastasia Lvova


Photo Credit: Dmitry Ivanov (IG: ivanov_dv_aero)