Airline passenger numbers down 18% in Russia


MOSCOW – Russia’s airline industry saw passenger numbers slump by nearly a fifth in the first six months of 2009, although the depth of the slowdown eased in June, the Federal Aviation agency reported on Wednesday.

Russians are tightening their belts die to the rising unemployment and the lack of confidence, while a weaker rouble RUB= has made foreign holidays less affordable than last year.

Some airlines are struggling with losses, starting painful restructuring talks or are close to bankruptcy while the country’s economy faces the first contraction in a decade.

However, recent economic data suggests the worst of the slowdown may have passed, and airline figures support this.

In June, national airlines carried 4.6 million passengers — 13.4 percent less than in the same period of 2008 but an improvement on the 16.3 percent year-on-year slump seen in May.

Month-on-month, passenger traffic actually increased 26.2 percent, reflecting the start of the holiday season.

For the first six months of the year, airlines carried 18.75 million passengers, down 18 percent compared with 2008.

The five major players including state-controlled flag carrier Aeroflot, Transaero, S7, Rossiya and Utair carried 10.37 million pasengers in June, with S7 suffering a sharpest decline of 33 percent in the passenger traffic.

Aeroflot, the biggest Russian airline, saw a 12 percent drop in passenger numbers in the first half of the year.