With not much going on in the Russian airline industry since my latest round-up, I thought it was a good opportunity to go for a more visual type of post and share some of the original airline liveries I have come across while in Russia.
So here is the first one, spotted at Domodedovo airport, Yamal Airlines ("Ямал"), an airline that takes its name from a frozen peninsula in Russia's far North, although most of its routes now are centered on other regions, such as the Siberian oil region of Tyumen or the, somewhat warmer, Anapa, on Russia's Black Sea Coast.
A Yamal Airlines Boeing 737-500
Plain and simple, I don't know whether it was intentional or not but I can't stop thinking that there is a point of "retro-ness" in this livery that makes it quite cool.
This time is about inviting your friends to provide tips about the next destination you are flying to (where to eat, what to see...). Basically see who of your friends has been there and then aggregate these recommendations on a "Must See Map" that KLM will ship to you...in paper format!
This is not the first time that someone tries to crowdsource a destination guide, but the paper format adds an interesting element, particularly because it appears to be shipped for free...is KLM going to be doing it undefinitely? would be interesting to see the ROI of this campaign if postal costs add to much.
But in any case, KLM has got people talking about it (we are not a exception!) and this matters too!
And, finally, some good news for Sukhoi's Superjet! Mexican airline Interjet is going ahead with its purchase of 20 Superjets. They will replace A320s on domestic routes. And this happens on the same week Sukhoi is delivering its first Superjet in Indonesia, this honour goes to Sky Aviation...The reverse of the coin, however, is that the $900M. deal in Indonesia with Kartika Airlines is not going to materialize, on this occasion it has actually been Sukhoi that pulled out of the deal because, apparently, the Indonesian airline could not fulfill its financial requirements...
Some time ago I analyzed why low cost carriers have it so hard in Russia...RBC magazine has also been looking into this matter and published an interesting report (an English summary is available here)...the conclusion: Russia's best chance to get its own low cost airline is...Aeroflot! It actually makes a lot of sense if you see what flag carriers are doing all over Western Europe: Iberia Express (or maybe Vueling instead?), Air France's Hop (I can't resist calling it "Hope") or Lufthansa's Germanwings rebranding...why wait until you are against the wall if you can have first mover advantage and have time to learn the game?
Last but not least, if you are a pilot looking for a new challenge this one is for you: Russia its planning to lift its ban on foreign pilots as a result of a the pilot shortage Russian airlines are currently facing.
KLM continues to rock with its social media activities. Its latest Facebook initiative has aviation enthusiasts all around the World already salivating...5000 likes and over 150 comments on Facebook and the game hasn't launched yet!
As someone who grew up playing Railroad Tycoon, I could not resist the allure of running my own airline (at least that's what it appears to be promising!) and already signed up to get notified once the game is live.
Looking at these fantastic vintage aircraft my guess is that KLM's game is also going to leverage its historical heritage (KLM is actually the oldest airline still operating anywhere in the World!). Something I certainly don't mind...!
Today the top slot goes to a classic of aviation...
I was quite amazed when I read the story on Ria Novosti's site, but, yes! while most airlines, including Russia's, were busy getting rid of the iconic Soviet-era airliner, deep inside Russia there was still a factory churning out Tu-154s. It was, because today has rolled out the last of them putting an end to 45 years of production!
(note: the aircraft in the picture is not the last of the line, but a Kirgyzstan Airways TU-154M that I spotted at Domodedovo airport a few years ago. But you can find a great Tu-154 infographic here!)
Although for many is already a vintage souvenir, if you waish to fly on a Tu-154, there are still plenty of options around, among them North Korea's flag carrier, that it recently launched an online booking service!
The Tu-154 might have its issues, but being around for 45 years is quiet an achievement for a piece of technology. It was expected that the type of shortcomings that led most of the airlines of the former Eastern block to ditch their old Soviet models as soon as they had a chance would be overcome by the new darling of the Russian civilian aerospace industry, the Sukhoi Superjet, however, as already commented in the previous round-up, the Superjet seems to be experimenting serious reliability issues, this time, the whole Aeroflot Superjet fleet has been grounded. But to be fair, this is not exclusive of Russian airliners, just ask Boeing about its 787s!
On a totally separate page, UTair is considering an IPO. The English story I linked to is to a premium source, but if you can read Russian, here is a longer article about the matter. While UTair might not be very well known to the non-Russian public, it has quite a large domestic operation, with a strong focus in oil producing areas of Siberia. It also operates a helicopter fleet, something quite unusual for major airlines in the West, but not that rare in Russia!
And European low cost airlines are finally coming to Russia!...or maybe not (yet)...as there seem to be some problems with Easyjet's documentation, that has not been able to confirm the start of flights despite having (apparently) sorted out operational and administrative issues and started selling tickets on its new cherished Moscow routes...In any case, Easyjet is expected to be followed soon by another European LCC, Wizzair. Are we going to see Ryanair in Russia soon?
Some interesting news this week about Russia's two main civilian airliner programmes. While Irkut's MS-21 continues to make progress, the first major fuselage section has been assembled, Sukhoi's Superjet is again under suspicion. According to this article (in Russian) Aeroflot is not particularly happy with the Superjet's reliability: this aircraft type makes 8% of Aeroflot's fleet, but is responsible for 40% of technical incidents!
At least it looks great!
An aircraft the Russian flag carrier can count on from now on is the Boeing 777-300ER, that has finally entered service this week on the route between Moscow (Sheremetyevo) and Bangkok. Aeroflot has finally become the third triple-seven operator in Russia, after Transaero and Orenair, although it does so after a number of administrative issues that have delayed the aircraft's entry into service. Every day of delay causes the airline a loss of $50,000, so now Aeroflot wants to sue the aviation authorities asking for compensation.
By the way, still in relation to Aeroflot: if Aeroflot's 90th anniversary was featured on the latest "Russia airlines round-up", today I could not avoid sharing this collection of downloadable posters about Aeroflot's history that is available on the Russian language version of the airline's website!
Also in the news this week was the liberalisation of air traffic rights between Moscow and the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. An important route in the post-Soviet space that now sees around 14 flights a day, operated by 5 different airlines.