This market snapshot was prepared by TopFlight Magazine and JETS.ru and published in the May issue of the magazine.
Much has already been written about the formation of the Russian business aviation market and in particular of the business charter market. As demand for such services rose in early 1990 the first market players appeared. However at the turn of the century, although the market was developing at a pace of about 10% per year, it was still quite a narrow segment shared by some ten or so brokers and local airlines. Local economic turbulence, the novelty and extravagance of business aviation itself for the Russians, slowed down the progress. The development from scratch when the market is filling an existing gap explains the significant yearly industry increase.
From 1999 onwards the recovering Russian economy and a constant increase in GDP lay the foundation for the boom in business aviation. The industry skyrocketed with the start of the new century. In the early 2000s new business aviation terminals were built to satisfy the growing demand but even they became insufficient in two or three years. The few pros on the business charter market were making the most of this time enjoying steady profits, while demand prevailed over supply significantly. Annual market growth was as high as 30% and even the global decline in the aviation industry in 2001—2003 was of no influence. On the contrary, Russian customers contributed to the profit of many European airlines in this difficult period by chartering their bizjets, preferring aircraft of foreign make to converted airliners churned out by the local industry. The trend is still upwards and it seems the peak is years ahead.
Last year brought the local business charter market to a new level. 2007 saw a 30% increase in the number of charter flights and passengers in business terminals of Moscow airports (it should be mentioned here that, according to United Business Aviation Association and Federal Air Navigation Authority data, 65% of all business flights in Russia are handled by Moscow terminals). The figures are as follows: 19,000 flights and 102,000 pax serviced in 2007, with an increase by 26% in the 1Q 2008 compared to the 1Q 2007 according to preliminary information. The total increase in the period 2003 through 2007 constituted 85%. According to the Dedicated Business Aviation Portal JETS.ru the charter market turnover in 2007 reached 945 mln euro. The leader in servicing business aviation is Vnukovo airport which handles 73% of all flights, Domodedovo International Airport handles 19%, the rest falls to Sheremetyevo. The share of the latter has been decreasing over the past five years.
According to our estimates there are up to 190 business jets of foreign origin in private ownership and about 100 Russian airliners converted for corporate use. According to UBAA data there are some 150 aviation companies working in the national market, 44 of them are Russian. Gradually foreign aircraft are becoming more and more popular and they are definitely the machines of choice on international routes.
The principal difficulties that the local business charter market faces are the same as the difficulties faced by the Russian business aviation in general. They can be divided into two groups. The first is traditional and includes the imperfection of legislation, high taxes on import of foreign aircraft, and the absence of local production, while the existing fleet is ageing. Another group of factors obstructing growth become increasingly apparent as the market develops. This includes a lack of qualified flight and administrative personnel as well as the ongoing deterioration of regional infrastructure.
Starting from 2003—2004 the number of companies (mostly brokers) offering business aviation services has been growing constantly. Despite this most of the market is still controlled by several companies, the oldest of which have been on the market since the 1990s, among them are Jet-2000 Business Jets, Jet Transfer, RusJet, Business Aviation, S-Air, Planet Aviation and some 20—30 other companies. Numerous small brokers – there are more than one hundred of them already – are working on the business charter market with a varying degree of success. We presume however that increasing competition, a decrease in profitability, and a possible stabilisation of demand in the mid-term are likely to leave the market with a limited number of professionals that will have the most significant impact on the industry in the future.
Although it is quite difficult to forecast in Russia, we can mark a likely direction for the local business charter market. Basically it is following the trends we established in the January edition of TopFlight magazine. The market will grow annually by 30% for the next 2—3 years, after which the rate will stabilise. We view this as a positive factor, because this plateau will give the market a chance to solve its problems: train enough qualified personnel, raise the level of professionalism across the industry, improve the quality of service and patch up the infrastructure.
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