Aeroflot: a perfectly fit 90-year old
This week marks a remarkable anniversary for Russian airlines: on 9th February 1923 Aeroflot, the former Soviet flag carrier and still the largest airline of Russia, was founded.
Yes! that means the dean of Russian airlines is turning 90!
Although Aeroflot has had its ups and downs, as its history is inevitably linked to that of its country, there are few airlines in the World that have such a long history of continuous operations.
Its image might not have fully recovered yet among the Western public after the chaotic late-Soviet and post-soviet years, when everything seemed to be falling apart...but today's Aeroflot is a totally different beast: new aircraft, levels of service on a par with the major international airlines, membership of Skyteam and even a website with a really cool design and truly innovative user interface!
If you wish to see more of Aeroflot's history, the Huffington Post has posted some very interesting pictures of Aeroflot's 90 years of history!
On unrelated news, a Russian airline that is unlikely to get to 90 is Red Wings, that has just seen its air operator license withdrawn by Russia's aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya (Росавиация). This measure was already expected and follows the accident of one of Red Wings Tupolev Tu-204 at Vnukovo airport on 29th December. Five crew members died and three others were seriously injured, in addition to another person injured on the ground, when the Tu-204 aircraft hit a motorway just outside the airport perimeter.
For images of the Red Wings Tu-204 accident at Vnukovo airport, see this article on Russian daily Vedomosti.
Red Wings airlines was not a large airline, but was strong on some domestic routes such as that between Vnukovo airport and Makhachkala, in the Republic of Daguestan, in the Caucasus, where it had a 50% market share.
It is also uncertain what is going to happen with Red Wings' fleet of 8 Tu-204 aircraft. Those are among the latest aircraft to have been designed in the Soviet era and it is unlikely they are going to be worth much in the market now that most Russian airlines are opting either for more modern Western aircraft or for new-generation Russian aircraft such as the Superjet and the upcoming MS-21.
And meanwhile, in Russia's Siberian expanses, Yakutia Airlines took delivery of the first Bombardier Q400 airliner that enters service in Russia. The Siberian airline, that has three of the type on order, covers many regional routes in the sparsely populated Republic of Yakutia (also known as the Sakha Republic), the largest of Russia's regions. And in Russia, "large" means really "huge", because at over 3,000,000 Sq Km. Yakutia is more than 12 times the size of the United Kingdom!