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27 Aug, 2007 09:23

Interview with Aleksandr Lebedev

Alekasndr Lebedev, the main shareholder of new low-cost airline Red Wings, explained to Russia Today the current problems faced by discount carriers in Russia.

Alekasndr Lebedev: In my view, it's a clever structure of buying an airline in Düsseldorf in Germany, and buying another one in Russia, and compare them on a daily basis- to show the actual attitude of the authorities to a discounter. The attitude of the European Community is much, much better, whereas here on the first route to Saloniki, our company got stuck, and we had to keep 160 passengers for two days in Vnukovo airport because the spokesman of the government said that we have to go to another airline, which is a competitor, to request permission to fly. What the government is doing – they are protecting their old inherited lines from the Soviet Union. Dozens and dozens of airlines are using old aircraft which is, firstly dangerous. Secondly, they are not comfortable, and finally, much more expensive than a proper discounter should be. I think it is time for the government to re-think their attitude.

Russia Today: At MAKS-2007 Red Wings signed an agreement to buy six Tupolev 204 aircraft. Why did the company choose these particular planes and what future purchases can we expect?

A.L.: It's a cheap aircraft. If you compare the TU-204 with Airbus 320 – passenger capacity, range, fuel efficiency. The whole question is whether Tupolev can deliver on a proper schedule.  It is quite a successful one to be used on discounter routes. They are also discussing the possibility of TU-204 with Rolls-Royce engines, which probably requires another year to adapt the engines. That explains that we have an aircraft which can have a very interesting niche outside the Russian Federation as well.

RT: This year’s MAKS is the first time that United Aircraft Corporation is presented as a single company. Do you think that this corporation will help to develop Russian aviation sector?

A.L.: One thing is to have a kind of competitive and transparent environment for the work to operate. I think there should be a private sector, competing with the state bureaucracy inside it. And thus, throwing additional light on how the company has been managed, and if you leave it entirely to the government bureaucracy, I am afraid that it will find itself in the situation similar to the older days of the Soviet Union and that had never been efficient at all.