on the fly: How is Russia’s airline industry performing?
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Much has been said and written about Russia’s airline industry since the conflict in Ukraine began in February 2022. Many countries, including most in Europe, responded with sanctions on Russian carriers (which affected not just their flight schedules but also their access to aircraft and supplies).
Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline by far, managed to offset some of the pressure by expanding domestically and to countries that were still open to it such as Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, and the UAE. Even so, while most airlines saw a sharp increase in traffic during 2022 as demand recovered from Covid, Aeroflot saw its 2022 passenger volumes decrease 11%, according to company data. International traffic alone was down 37%. Based on schedule data via Diio by Cirium, total seats to and from Russia declined 4% during 2022.
Taking a longer look back, we can see that from the chart below that Russia’s airline sector was actually growing quite rapidly between 2016 and 2019. Then came a big drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, which almost all markets experienced. Capacity rebounded somewhat in 2021 before the Ukraine war caused another decline last year. All of this is depicted by the blue line.
What’s the orange line? It shows the seat capacity trajectory for Indonesia, a market that was roughly similar in size to Russia’s in 2010. It grew considerably faster than Russia for most of the 2010s but peaked in 2018 (Russia’s peak was 2019). Indonesia had a rougher 2021 than Russia but then unlike Russia, started to recover in 2022.
Where is Russia’s airline sector headed in 2023? Expect a lot of growth. Based on schedules for the current April-to-June quarter, seat capacity will be up 22% year on year, driven by a big increase in international flying. Markets with lots of added seats include Dubai, Istanbul, Phuket, and Antalya. Compared to 2019, however, seats to and from Russia will still be down about 9%.
Source: Diio by Cirium, data queried on Mar. 27
NEXT ON THE FLY: What are the latest North American airline growth trends?
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