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Pesident of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Savelyev, a few questions. How is the company doing today, under current economic conditions? Furthermore, how are you preparing for the summer travel season? And a separate question about destinations subsidised by the Government – first and foremost, the Far East, Kaliningrad, and Crimea. I know that the company has its own suggestions on this matter. Please go ahead. What shall we start with?
General director of Aeroflot Vitaly Savelyev: Mr President, I would like to begin by saying that despite the emerging decline in air service in Russia, Aeroflot remains the leading carrier and continues to increase passenger traffic this year. As an example, I will note that last year, Aeroflot carried 23.6 million passengers. This was a new record for us. As a group, we carried 34.7 million passengers.
This year, we are practically the only airline in Russia with a stable passenger traffic growth during the first two months of the year – January and February – with 3.5 million passengers. This is an increase of about 12.3% compared to last year.
Vladimir Putin: During that period?
Vitaly Savelyev: Yes. As a group, we carried 5.1 million passengers.
I also want to note that Crimea was our key destination last year, and remains so today. Aeroflot carried about 700,000 passengers to and from Crimea, and our group as a whole carried about one million passengers.
This year, we will increase passenger traffic on many destinations, including Crimea.
I also want to talk about a project we launched thanks to you: the low-cost carrier Dobrolet. It was launched on June 10 last year, but due to the sanctions against Dobrolet specifically, we were forced to cease operations on August 4.
But even during that brief period, the project has proved to be quite successful and popular among Russians: we carried 67,000 passengers. So we decided to relaunch it. Last year, we once again registered a low-cost carrier and called it Pobeda [Victory] in honour of the Great Victory that we will soon be commemorating. And we made the first flight to Volgograd. What’s most interesting is that from December 1, 2014 until today, we have carried over 400,000 passengers, and by the end of the year, we hope to carry close to three million passengers, perhaps even a little more, and Pobeda will be among the top ten companies in our sector.
I would like to say a few words about our fleet. As of today, we have the youngest fleet in the world among airlines that have over 100 planes. Our main objective is to introduce Russian aviation equipment, and today, we already own 18 modern Sukhoi Superjets, which account for over 10% of our fleet. We hope that in accordance with the decisions made at the meeting you held on Thursday, we will get 50 more aircraft by 2016 and will be waiting for 50 MC-21 family aircraft that our aviation industry will start delivering to us in 2017.
Our main priorities are safety and quality service.
I want to say that we have returned to the leading positions in this market. Today, Aeroflot is once again the #1 airline in Europe in terms of service quality in business and economy class based on numerous rankings, including international ones. And for the first time, we have become the #4 airline in the world in terms of service quality in business class and #5 in the world for economy class. Also last year, for the first time in our history, we were recognised as the world’s most punctual airline twice – in May and November.
In our view, today’s situation demonstrates that a decline in flights makes people travel less. And in fact, we have prepared suggestions, which I hope to discuss with you now. They concern our key destinations: Crimea – first and foremost Simferopol – as well as Kaliningrad and the Far East – Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
We want to use the Simferopol example for these destinations, given the positive experience, and introduce flat rates. We will discuss all the details with you, but today, we are already selling flat-rate round-trip tickets to Simferopol at 9,000 rubles [$155], including taxes and fees. We think that this price is absolutely adequate and affordable. The sales are good, and we are currently doing six flights a day. In May we will have seven flights per day and starting in June, there will be nine daily flights, through Aeroflot alone.
For these destinations we will launch flights to certain, most popular slots using wide-body aircraft like the Airbus 330 and Boeing 777, with 300–400 seats.
Overall, the company is doing fairly well despite the market situation and if our suggestions are accepted, we will implement them soon.
Vladimir Putin: Will the fares remain the same in the summer?
Vitaly Savelyev: Absolutely, there will be a flat rate. The summer season has already begun; it began this past weekend, so we will introduce flat rates and will not raise prices any higher. This will be the same as last year: 7,500 rubles round trip to Simferopol, including taxes and fees. So we will not raise anything; on the contrary, we will offer the base prices, and depending on the market, we can only lower them.
Vladimir Putin: And Kaliningrad?
Vitaly Savelyev: Including Kaliningrad.
Vladimir Putin: How much will it cost?
Vitaly Savelyev: We are proposing the base rate of 7,500 rubles round trip with taxes and fees. As of today, this is the lowest price among all the airlines.
Vladimir Putin: And Khabarovsk?
Vitaly Savelyev: Ticket fare to Khabarovsk and all cities in the Far East will be no higher than 18,000 rubles round trip, including taxes and fees.
Vladimir Putin: Very well.