Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount airline, has been granted permission to fly to destinations in Russia from March next year by the country’s aviation authority.
The Federal Air Transport Agency, known as Rosaviatsia, will allow the airline to start regular flights on routes from Dublin to Moscow and St Petersburg, spokesman Sergei Isvolsky said by phone today. Ryanair is in “exploratory” talks with a number of airports as potential destinations, according to the Dublin-based carrier’s spokesman Robin Kiely.
“Ryanair has had discussions with a number of Russian airports, but they are purely exploratory at this time,” Kiely said in an e-mailed statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last year backed plans for low-cost flights, which will require legal changes to permit non-refundable tickets, charging for meals and the hiring of foreign pilots. OAO Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, plans to establish a discount unit of its own at a cost of $100 million after specialist no-frills operators EasyJet Plc and Wizz Air Ltd. targeted its home market.
Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said in September the airline was looking at new routes in North Africa, Israel and Russia.
“This is a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia so it’s no open-skies policy,” Alexander Kazbegi, a transport analyst at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, said by phone. “If Ryanair wants to fly from other European locations, they need to approach governments there to do a deal with Russia.”
Ryanair operates more than 1,600 daily flights, connecting 180 destinations in 29 countries, according to its website.
EasyJet, Europe’s second-largest low-cost carrier after Ryanair, began flights from London Gatwick airport to Moscow Domodedovo on March 18 and began serving the Russian capital from Manchester 10 days later.
Wizz Air Ltd, a low-cost airline based in Hungary, added flights to Moscow Vnukovo airport on Sept. 23.
The Aeroflot proposal comes after the failure of previous discount ventures SkyExpress and Avianova, which closed in 2011 despite being backed by billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group and U.S. private equity firm Indigo Partners. Former billionaire Alexander Lebedev sold his low-cost carrier Red Wings Airlines in April for 1 ruble (3 cents) to an unspecified group of investors, four months after one of its planes crashed at Vnukovo Airport.