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Cheap tickets fly away

How have the rules of preferential transportation to the Far East changed?

November 24 came into force changes to the rules of subsidizing air travel to the Far East and back, as well as a number of other regions of the country. Why it was necessary to change the legislation and whether it would become easier to get to the eastern outskirts of the country from this, EastRussia understood.

Cheap tickets fly away

The program of subsidized flights to the Far East started in 2014 year. Citizens of the country are younger than 23 years and older 55 years for women and 60 years for men, as well as disabled people have the right to purchase preferential air tickets. You could buy them from 1 March to 1 December.

If at the start of the program flights on 26 routes were subsidized, then by the year 2018 their number increased to 73. According to the Ministry of Eastern Development at the end of November, the air carriers sold 444 thousands of subsidized tickets for flights connecting the Far East and the central part of Russia, and also between the regions entering the Far Eastern Federal District, the 412 of thousands of passengers already used the tickets.

On November 14, Prime Minister Medvedev signed a decree that increased the number of subsidized routes to 152 and extended the program to the entire calendar year. In addition, the right to purchase tickets for special rates received large families. The length of the subsidized routes also increased - in the Far Eastern and Siberian federal districts to 3 thousand kilometers, in the rest to 1,5 thousand. 

The changes that have come into force take effect from December 1 of this year. To ensure this, the government has additionally allocated 400 million rubles this year. According to the Ministry of Transport of Russia, this will allow to sell about 31 thousands of tickets until December 40. This year, this is not the first financial adjustment of the program, given that the demand for airline tickets on special tariffs in the Far East is constantly growing, the authorities have allocated additional funds several times.

As the Ministry for the Development of the Far East explained, the increase in funds for air travel subsidies occurred for the first time in the last three years.  

- Additional funds in 2018 were repeatedly increased due to the redistribution of funds to the Far East from other areas within the program itself, from the Reserve Fund of the Russian Federation, from the program on regional transportation. The situation with the allocated funds and transported passengers is changing daily and by the end of 2018, we expect a record number of transported citizens to the European part of the country and back, they stressed in the department.

The cost of the program in 2019 will be difficult to answer at the Ministry of the East, noting that the amount of additional funds will be provided for if the federal budget is adjusted for 2019 year.

“The Comprehensive Plan for the Modernization and Expansion of the Backbone Infrastructure to 2024 of the Year, developed pursuant to the Presidential Decree, provides for an increase in the size of subsidies starting from 2019 of the year,” the Ministry of Eastern and Eastern Development told.

The ministry is planning that in 2019, the number of citizens transported will increase in comparison with this year. Contribute to this will be the increase in the number and frequency of flights, which occurred throughout the entire 2018 year.

- In all the administrative centers of the subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District, come new carriers. This process continues, additional flights are introduced due to the increased demand for transportation, the department noted.


Responding to a question from EastRussia about solving the problem of high demand for tickets to the Far Eastern direction and low on Kaliningrad and Simferopol, which causes a certain imbalance in the distribution of tickets between regions, the ministry responded that they are working together with the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation and the Federal Air Transport Agency to eliminate this problem .

Having provided Far Eastern youth and retirees with discount tickets, the authorities faced the issue of supporting the mobility of the most able-bodied part of the population. To solve this problem, Aeroflot was involved.

Since 2015, the airline has introduced social or "flat" fares for economy-class air tickets to some distant cities of the country. From that moment on, residents of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Magadan had the opportunity to travel to Moscow at a fixed price regardless of the date of ticket purchase. At the start of this campaign, it was possible to fly to the capital and back for 18 thousand rubles, and one way for 11 thousand.

At the beginning of 2016, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin, the head of Aeroflot, Vitaly Savelyev, said that during the program on flat fares, the growth of passenger traffic in the Far East amounted to 43 percent. “We cannot widely use the“ flat ”fare, otherwise we will simply undermine the competition in the market and put our colleagues in a difficult position - other Russian airlines that operate in the same areas,” he said at the same time.

This assumption was not unfounded. The Transaero company, which also made flights to the Far East, left the market. And although the fleet of Transaero ships was transferred to Aeroflot's subsidiary, Rossiya Airlines, this did not affect the volume of traffic at flat rates. Rossiya made flights to the Far East at commercial rates.

At the end of 2017, Saveliev, at his next meeting with the President, put forward a proposal from 2018, to transfer “Russia” to a “flat” tariff. According to him, this would allow providing an additional 900 thousand seats on the Far Eastern routes. “The only thing that will be a slight difference in prices, given that Aeroflot is a premium segment, we will raise the tariff to the Far East from 22 thousands back and forth to 25 thousands. And the airline "Russia" will start flying at our current flat fare in 22 thousands of rubles back and forth, "said Vitaly Sovelev. Putin supported this proposal.

In the autumn, Aeroflot decided to transfer all Far Eastern flights to its subsidiary Russia, whose fleet is inferior to Aeroflot, and to raise ticket prices at “flat” fares. These actions caused a serious scandal as a result of which Aeroflot was forced to abandon the price increase, leaving, however, the “Russia” in the Far Eastern direction.

The Ministry of Economic Development notes that “flat” fares are an initiative of Aeroflot and are not fixed by the legislation of the Russian Federation. At the same time, they have an exclusively social significance for the Far East and provide stable and affordable air communication between remote regions and the European part of the country.

Having linked the Far East and Moscow by air transportation at the “flat” tariff, Aeroflot found itself in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, other air carriers do not enter the Far Eastern directions, rightly believing that they will not withstand competition with prices offered by Aeroflot. On the other hand, Aeroflot itself cannot benefit from its position, as it incurs losses. According to the company, the losses from each flight, when the aircraft is loaded by 95, are about 3 million rubles.

- In order to level the effect of jet fuel price increases, as well as to increase population mobility, increase passenger traffic and the number of tickets sold at “flat” fares by an average of 12%, Aeroflot decided to transfer its flights from 28 in October from Moscow to the Far Eastern directions of Rossiya Airlines, - say in the Ministry of Eastern and Eastern Development.


In the opinion of Nikolai Lipatin, Candidate of Economic Sciences, the problem of Aeroflot is not unique and reflects a general trend related to the development of state capitalism in Russia.

- The problem is that, on the one hand, Aeroflot is a commercial structure whose main goal is to extract profits. On the other hand, the company is controlled by the state, which is its largest shareholder. And the state has completely different tasks. It needs to ensure the coherence of the country and the development of remote areas of the Far East, but without cheap and high-quality air communication, this is impossible. There is a contradiction. Obviously, in a capitalist economy, Aeroflot will not be able to sustain losses for a long time and cover them from its own funds. Sooner or later, the state will have to either abandon the “flat” tariffs and allow Aeroflot to fly at commercial rates, or compensate for its losses at the expense of the budget, the expert notes.

In the Ministry of Development, they say that now the Ministry of Transport of Russia, together with Aeroflot, is working on the issue of maintaining the existing number of flights.

“At present, agreements have been reached with the management of PJSC Aeroflot on maintaining a number of flights operated by Aeroflot, as well as the introduction of additional flights operated by Russia,” the department said.

Nikolai Lipatin believes that now the state is not ready to extend the practice of subsidized flights to the entire population of Far Eastern subjects.

- The federal center could involve Far Eastern entities in subsidizing such flights, but the problem is that all of them are subsidized and cannot provide support for “flat” tariffs. In addition, they are already involved in the subsidization of preferential flights, - said the expert.

He notes that being the main shareholder of large companies, the state cannot fully ensure the coherence of their assets, aimed at ensuring social stability.

- Oil state-owned companies would be able to sell aviation fuel to Aeroflot at reduced prices for flights to the Far East. But they do not do this, because they are also commercial structures and prioritize profit. Sitting on two chairs, one of which is commercial success, and the other is social peace, this situation is unlikely to work, says Lipatin.

In an effort to attract labor resources to the Far East, the state is forced to resolve issues of ensuring aviation transport accessibility. The introduction of direct subsidies for discounted tickets for young people and retirees, as well as the use of the state air carrier to transport other groups of people at “flat” tariffs, partly solves this problem, but it is not yet clear how this solution will be stable in the long term.
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