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Transaero CEO Expects Fleet Renewal Will Maintain Current Growth Rates

Transaero Airlines, Russia’s second largest airline, expects its fast pace of growth to continue over the next several years as it anticipates delivery of both its first Airbus A380 and first Boeing 747-8 in 2015. The carrier is also interested in expanding international partnerships, and yesterday signed an interline agreement with New York John F. Kennedy International Airport-based JetBlue Airways, CEO Olga Pleshakova said yesterday during a meeting with editors at Aviation Week’s offices in Washington. Enplanements in 2012 rose 22% year-over-year to 10.3 million and, according to Pleshakova, passenger growth continued at the same pace through the first nine months of 2013. First-half 2013 revenue increased 18% year-over-year to RUB45.5 billion ($1.4 billion), while operating income rose 14% to RUB4.1 billion and net profits 69% to RUB464 million. Transaero’s 2012 net profit was RUB901.9 million, up 8.4% from 2011, on a 12.8% increase in revenue to RUB97.6 billion. “I’m definitely hoping the growth will continue,” Pleshakova said. She explained that the airline in recent years has taken advantage of “exponential growth in tourist traffic from Russia,” operating aircraft with high seating capacity and load factors in the 85%-range. About 80% of the carrier’s flying is international. “We’re increasing capacity, increasing the number of seats,” Pleshakova said. For example, Transaero’s Boeing 747-400s seat 525 passengers in two classes, which the CEO noted is the “largest seat capacity for a 747-400 in the world.” She added, “Our routes will have airplanes that have maximum passenger capacity, which is especially important for tourism.” The carrier’s Airbus A380s will be configured to carry 650 seats, including 12 in first-class and 24 business-class. Transaero has four A380s and four 747-8s on firm order. The carrier will configure its 747-8s with three classes of seats and aim to attract business passengers with the Boeing widebodies. “If the A380 is the aircraft for high-volume tourism groups, the 747-8 is our answer to the . . . routes with less tourists but [more business-oriented] passengers who are more demanding than tourists,” she explained. Pleshakova said Transaero’s focus going forward will be twofold. “The mass transit of tourists and [winning] the intense competition for business travelers on medium-haul routes from Russia to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East . . . We’re the largest leisure traffic carrier not only from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but we also pick up passengers from 18 other destinations in Russia to carry to tourist destinations around the world.” The carrier’s fleet comprises 95 Boeing aircraft, a mix of 747s, 777s, 767s, 737s, as well as three Tupolev 214s and two Tupolev 204-100Cs. In addition to the A380s and 747-8s, It has eight A320neos (the first is scheduled to arrive in 2017) and six Sukhoi Superjet 100s on firm order. It also finalized a deal earlier this month to lease 12 Boeing 737-800s from Sberbank Leasing Co., with deliveries scheduled between 2015 and 2017. It additionally has memoranda of understanding for 12 Irkut MC-21s with Ilyushin Finance Co. Though much of its fleet is aging, no decision has been made on a major aircraft order. “We’re happy with our large-body aircraft fleet,“ Pleshakova said. “As the newer models arrive, we will study the possibility of a large order weighed against the retiring of the existing fleet . . . After we master the two new types of aircraft [A380s and 747-8s], we’ll make a decision on what to order next,” likely in 2015 or 2016. The carrier has more than 50 interline agreements with airlines worldwide. Pleshakova said the deal with JetBlue “took two years to develop . . . That agreement gives us [access to] 16 new routes in the domestic U.S. and 20 in the Caribbean. Our entire network in Russia and the CIS is at JetBlue’s disposal.”

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