Aeroflot wants Sheremetyevo airport chief fired over flight delays

The escalating dispute between Russia’s major air carrier Aeroflot and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport could cost a job to the airport chief after dozens of flights were delayed due to repair work.

On Tuesday Aeroflot said it had spent two days reshuffling flights at the airport because one of the two runways was shut down for repair without notice. As many as 76 flights were delayed between a quarter of a hour and seven hours on Monday, according to Aeroflot.

"Aeroflot puts the complete responsibility for the flight delays on Sheremetyevo Airport management, which fully approved Aeroflot's April-October 2012 flight schedule," the air carrier said in a statement.

Aeroflot claim Sheremetyevo management discriminates against Aeroflot and called for resignation of airport’s director Mikhail Vasilenko. "The policies pursued by Vasilenko in relation to Aeroflot — the national airline and a key client of the airport — are absolutely destructive in nature."

Aeroflot pledged to seek a no-confidence vote in Sheremetyevo chief Mikhail Vasilenko at the airport's next board meeting. However, Aeroflot, which owns a 9% stake in the airport, has to secure a support from the government holding 83%, to oust Vasilenko.

Aeroflot has also threatened to file a lawsuit against the airport for the inconvenience to passengers and the losses caused by the disruptions. 

“If we knew 2 months in advance about the operations, we wouldn’t have sold tickets… It was a surprise for us,” Vitaly Savelyev, CEO of Aeroflot told RT. “To avoid a collapse we had to cancel more than 60 flights until the middle of October as the airport capacity decreased, not to mention the financial losses”.

He added: “We must champion our passengers interests and stay competitive. If we turn a blind eye to incidents like these, it would affect the quality of the company”.

However, Sheremetyevo management denies the allegations, stressing that Aeroflot as well as other air carries had been notified in advance about the repair work, which started on Monday and will last until October 15.

Several domestic airlines have also seen their flights delayed for a while, but none of them complained. Foreign carriers reportedly weren’t affected by repair works on the runway.

Aeroflot and Sheremetyevo airport has been at odds for several years, blaming each other in disrupting flights. In 2009 Aeroflot alleged the airport didn’t service the equipment at the Terminal D, built by Aeroflot. In 2010 the companies argued about failing to provide enough fuel and antifreeze liquid. The conflict entered a new stage last month after Aeroflot threatened to sue the airport over a power failure that it said also delayed flights.