Rates from the sky are not enough // Updated regional airports may not be affordable for airlines

Airlines complained about the planned sharp increase in taxes at the airports of Ufa, Kemerovo, Novy Urengoy and Gelendzhik. The increase in tariffs, which has yet to be coordinated with the transport administration and the Federal Antimonopoly Service, is needed to recoup the costs of modernizing airports. According to airlines’ estimates, as a result, the prices for air tickets to these destinations may rise by 25-30%, and some carriers will have to exclude these cities from the route network altogether. At the airports, however, these fears are considered exaggerated.

According to Kommersant’s information, the government transport commission plans to consider investment projects to modernize airports in Ufa, Novy Urengoy and Kemerovo. This is necessary so that airports can negotiate long-term tariffs with the Federal Antimonopoly Service for a return on investment. Earlier, the legal committee has already considered the project for the reconstruction of Gelendzhik airport.

The approval of investment projects will lead to a sharp increase in tariffs, airlines fear. So, in Kemerovo, servicing a flight for airlines by 2023 will become 4.5 times more expensive, according to a letter from the Association of Air Transport Operators to the Ministry of Transport (AEVT, is at the disposal of Kommersant). According to AEVT, in Ufa, taking into account the proposed tariffs, passenger service will rise in price by more than 70% in 2025. In Novy Urengoy, starting from 2023, the cost of a flight for carriers will increase by more than 2.5 times. In May, according to Kommersant’s information, AEVT sent a letter to the Ministry of Transport stating that fees at Gelendzhik airport after the appearance of a new terminal could grow, according to the investor’s proposal, by almost 40%. AEVT proposed to consider increasing the payback period of investments, as well as to work out the issue of restructuring the loans taken by the airport. AEVT declined to comment.

FAS regulates four basic airport taxes: for take-off and landing, aviation security services, provision of a terminal to passengers and their service. In 2015, price regulation was canceled at the airports of the Moscow air hub. Long-term tariffs for the payback of investments in modernization have already been established at the airports of Saratov, Simferopol, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod and Perm, as well as at the new airport of Rostov-on-Don Platov.

In the investment projects that Kommersant got acquainted with, it is indicated that the prices for flights, taking into account the new tariffs, should increase by no more than 5-15%. The press service of the Gelendzhik Airport told Kommersant that “the increase may be reflected in the ticket price by about 50 rubles.”

“Carriers regularly appear in the public field demanding to freeze tariffs,” notes the executive director of the International Airports Association Sergei Nikotin. “However, the emergence of new infrastructure is inevitable: it is impossible to endlessly operate air terminals built in the 70s and 80s of the last century. This is not only a matter of service, but also of flight safety. ” According to him, the modernization can be beneficial for the airlines themselves: for example, the use of flight bridges increases the speed of boarding and disembarking passengers, which reduces the turnaround time of the aircraft.

Carriers flying to these destinations told Kommersant that tickets could rise in price by an average of 25-30% due to an increase in airport taxes. A source close to the Aeroflot group noted that, for example, in Platovo airport fares reach 40% of the ticket price. For this reason, in 2020, “Pobeda” stopped flights to Rostov-on-Don and Samara, “which led to a significant increase in prices for the remaining airlines,” recalls a Kommersant source close to the commercial department of the carrier. According to him, the airline “cannot fly to airports with insane rates, because if only 2 thousand rubles have to be paid for the service. from each ticket, the very idea of ​​low-cost does not make sense. ” Sources of Kommersant at Rossiya Airlines say that it also refrains from flying to Rostov-on-Don because of high fares.

“Only Aeroflot can cope with the increased load due to tariffs – it has a financial cushion and state support, and it would be more profitable for private players like Ural Airlines and Utair to leave,” one of Kommersant’s sources in the aviation industry believes. Ural Airlines told Kommersant that if the cost of the flight turns out to be higher than the planned revenue, then the carrier “with a high degree of probability will make a decision not to operate the flights.” S7 Airlines, for its part, reminded of the need to develop a mechanism for coordinating infrastructure projects with key carriers at airports.

This principle is implemented in international practice, where plans for airports and justification of tariffs are discussed in advance at neutral sites, says Alexander Fridlyand, director of NTs-26 of the State Research Institute of Civil Aviation. “This does not happen in Russia, the decisions on rates and fees are made by the FAS, which reduces the likelihood of a compromise,” he says. In addition, foreign airports are actively using their income from non-aeronautical activities to service loans for construction: renting out space for shops and catering. “Regional airports in Russia have much less opportunities due to low passenger traffic and insufficient reserve of production space,” concludes Mr. Fridlyand. Russian investors claim a very short payback period – up to ten years, adds Viktor Gorbachev, President of the Airport Association, while “all over the world, serious infrastructure projects pay off on average about 30 years, which makes it possible to curb the growth of tariffs”.

Aigul Abdullina

How much do airport modernization projects cost?

Conjuncture

The total investment in the modernization of four airports, the projects of which may be considered by the Transport Commission, is about 24 billion rubles. All projects provide for a double increase in airport capacity.

Thus, as part of the reconstruction of the Novy Urengoy airport (part of the Airports of Regions holding) worth 11 billion rubles. it is planned to build a new terminal building and modernize the runway. The project should be completed in 2022. The project for the construction of a new terminal at the Gelendzhik airport is being implemented by VTB Infrastructure Holding. The total investment will amount to 5.4 billion rubles. The work should be completed by 2022. The new airport terminal in Kemerovo (part of the Novaport holding) was opened on May 23, 2021, the construction cost 5 billion rubles. Ufa Airport (JSC UIA, owned by Bashkiria) completed the first stage of the terminal reconstruction in December 2020. The cost of the work, according to the project, is 2.6 billion rubles.

Aigul Abdullina

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