<img class="imgr" alt="" src="http://www.belarus-magazine.by/belen/data/upimages/2009/0001-009-481.jpg">[b]Belavia Air Company is getting ready for the World Ice Hockey Championship, launching new routes[/b]<br />Last year saw dynamic growth for Belavia, with new planes joining the fleet and new routes launched. Of course, change has been inspired by the forthcoming World Ice Hockey Championship, which is being held this May — in our Year of Hospitality. Belavia has a huge role to play in transporting thousands of hockey fans in comfort and safety to the major event. Accordingly, it’s only right that new services and technologies come into play.
Last year saw dynamic growth for Belavia, with new planes joining the fleet and new routes launched. Of course, change has been inspired by the forthcoming World Ice Hockey Championship, which is being held this May — in our Year of Hospitality. Belavia has a huge role to play in transporting thousands of hockey fans in comfort and safety to the major event. Accordingly, it’s only right that new services and technologies come into play.
Anatoly Gusarov was an aviation engineer before taking on the job of Director General of Belavia, but always had a love of flying. He tells us, “Over the past year, we’ve managed to significantly develop our network of flights, with six new routes becoming operational: flights will now run regularly to Samara, Kutaisi, Budapest-Belgrade, Geneva and Vilnius. Meanwhile, new tourist routes have been launched to Greek Arakos, Zakynthos, Kerkyra and Kos, as well as to Spanish Palma de Mallorka, Alicante, the Spanish resort of Catania, Croatian Pula and Montenegrin Tivat. Currently, the most popular routes are those to Antalya, Burgas, Izmir, Bodrum, Thessaloniki and Hurghada. This shows our commercial policy of flying within Europe, and across the CIS and Asia, as well as to the Middle East. In 2013, Belavia flew into 43 foreign airports, in 27 countries, covering 46 routes.”
Last year, over 1.5m passengers used Belavia, didn’t they?
To be more exact, we transported over 1.6m passengers: compared to 1.2m in 2012. I’m delighted, since the increased volume has been primarily due to transit passengers; it shows that people (and airlines) are happy to fly through Belarus. Those from Western European cities fly through Minsk and onto Astana, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Samara — using our routes. Moreover, passengers from Russian cities use us as a hub for onward flights to Western Europe.
What’s the company’s formula for success?
Belarus has always boasted strong air staff and qualified maintenance personnel, establishing a worthy system. Our care in making considered decisions, rather than acting in haste, also helps. It’s my motto.
What inspired the company’s noticeable development last year?
We’re launching new routes annually. Logically, we’ve analysed the international market situation and found our niches. Most importantly, we’ve reinforced our positions. Every Belarusian enterprise aims to conquer new markets, and ours is no exception. Our service exports have increased but air transportation is a complex mechanism, requiring much preparation before launching a new flight; demand needs to be thoroughly studied and new planes may need to be purchased.
Are flights to Western Europe a priority for the company?
Belavia is a fully-fledged participant in the international European air carriage market. We are recognised on an equal footing with Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Austrian Airlines and other famous air carriers. We’re perceived seriously in the world of aviation and regularly pass international audits for flight security provision. These are extremely serious inspections, organised every other year by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). We understand that we bear complete responsibility for the security of passengers during flights, so we’re deeply involved in training staff, in addition to maintaining the air-worthiness of planes to the highest level. As regards training, our flight crews study at training centres in London, Stockholm, Vilnius, Berlin and Amsterdam. Of course, this isn’t cheap, but it’s an essential condition for the operation and development of the company.
Can you tell us about the creation of a ‘hybrid’ model combining classical ticket sales with elements of low-cost?
Our hybrid model is practically ready. In winter, when demand falls, this system enables us to sell tickets at the lowest prices, with special offers made to passengers. For example, someone planning a weeklong trip to Amsterdam in late February will pay just 199 Euros for a return ticket at present. Of course, this isn’t low-cost but it isn’t 400 Euros either. Such discounts will be offered until April 20th, covering 26 routes across the Belavia network.
Belavia is soon to acquire new aircraft.
Last May, we expanded our fleet with a Boeing 737-300 and acquired another this year — the seventh for our fleet. In total, we have 22 aircraft. In May, we’ll receive the first of two new Brazilian Embraers: the second is to arrive in June. Our plans also include the replacement of three Tu-154M; they can still fly but consume too much fuel, so are being replaced by Boeings of the same capacity. We’ll continue to expand our flight network and will launch more flights on existing routes as demand guides us.
What’s in store for Belavia’s further development?
The World Ice Hockey Championship is round the corner so we’ve launched routes to many countries participating in the world tournament. We’re ready to welcome fans on board and are considering how to increase the number of flights during the hockey competition. Moreover, fans are booking collective ticket packages, so we’re organising charter flights. We’ll be opening flights to Nice and Krasnodar. Meanwhile, we’re studying the provision of wireless Internet and mobile communication while on board: new technologies should be introduced in 2015.
Interview by Vladimir Vladimirov
PS. In late January, the Republican Unitary Enterprise National Airline Belavia became the Belavia Air Company Open Joint-Stock Company, with Anatoly Gusarov appointed as Director General of Belavia Air Company JSC.