Just weeks after startup cargo carrier Direct-Avia was launched after acquiring two ex-Transaero Tu204-100Cs on lease from Ilyushin Finance Co., another carrier, SkyGate Airlines, has announced it will begin flights this year from Moscow’s new Zhukovsky Airport. The news was announced at the opening ceremony for the airport earlier this month and is a part of a bid to take advantage of a gap in the market that appeared when Transaero went out of business last October. The new airline’s general director Pyotr Morozov told Russian Aviation Insider that his company was hiring former pilots and engineers from the defunct carrier. However, the new challengers face obstacles.
Total Russian cargo volumes in April, year-on year, fell more than 13% and freight volumes across all of Russia’s 15 largest airports fell between 2014 and 2015. The top cargo airport, Sheremetyevo saw volumes fall more than 8%, year-on-year. Meanwhile, economic sanctions are stretching into their second year, and Russia’s middle class is cutting back on the sort of purchases that drive air cargo.
At the same time, other carriers are making gains through a conjunction of relatively strong EU-Asia air freight traffic and market share vacated by Transaero. AirBridgeCargo, which moved fast to capture Transaero’s air freight business, saw volumes rise nearly 30% in the first quarter of 2016.
SkyGate Airlines has yet to receive its AOC, and has not yet acquired any aircraft. However, Morozov told Russian Aviation Insider that SkyGate plans to start out with a leased 747-400F by the end of this year, with plans to expand to up to three aircraft once the cargo terminal has opened late next year, with the possibility of then growing to six aircraft.
SkyGate Airlines, registered in Moscow in April 2016, is controlled by SkyGate Rus company. The latter is 20% owned by Globus Distribution Management, a part of Avia Solutions Group based out of Lithuania, and 80% by Alexander Khmelevskikh.