Et fly av typen Tu 204-100 fra Red Wings( Photo: The Independant Barents Observer)

The two leading airlines in Northwest Russia, the Nordavia and Red Wings, are becoming one company, reports Independant Barents Observer.

«The goal of the merger is to expand out business, which will give us possibilities to enhance the financial stability of the companies, conduct a fully-fledged renewal of the aircraft fleet, create a joint route network and improve efficiency,» a statement from the companies posted by Interfax reads.

The merger has been in the process for more than a year. In early 2016, Sergey Kuznetsov, owner of Red Wings, bought Nordavia from Norilsk Nickel, the mining and metallurgy company.

Both airlines have over the last years experienced serious economic hardship. Nordavia, which is based in Arkhangelsk and primarily serves north Russian passengers, has over the years accumulated debt of more than €150 million.

The merged company become Russia’s 10th biggest airline. And ambitions are high. Already in 2018, the company plans to fly more than 3.5 million passengers.

The company will have a combined fleet of 19 aircraft, among them Airbus A320 and 321, Boeing 737-500 and Russian-made Tu-204-100. Several more planes are in the pipeline. Red Wings has ordered 10 aircraft, including Tu-2014SM and 16 MS-21-300 (Yak-242), the new mid-distance Russian plane.

The merger of the companies comes as the growth in passenger numbers in north Russian airports is significant.

Arkhangelsk, the biggest airport in the Russian north, in the first half of 2017 served 386,271 passengers, an increase of 20 percent compared with the same period in 2016. Narrowly behind is Murmansk, which in the same period served 377,880 passengers, a year-on-year increase of more than 8 percent. Author: Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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