An interview with Vladimir Khizhnyak, Director Aviation Marketing and Commerce, Sheremetyevo International Airport, and Alexander Nikonov, Head of Foreign Airlines Division Aviation Marketing and Commerce Department. By Nick Preston
Sheremetyevo International Airport is currently doing really well, with 40 million passengers last year (+18%) and continued 13% growth in the first half of 2018. So, if we suddenly had a world where there were no political tensions between Russia, Europe and North America etc, what sort of traffic levels do you think you would be achieving?
This would certainly help. In the US-Russia market most of the demand is originating from Russia. If there were no political tensions, the US market could easily be 50% bigger. Since 2014, growth of US traffic has slowed down. Traffic to Washington has decreased a little bit, but in general, traffic to the US is approximately at the same level as 2014/2015. Corporate traffic has decreased and that was the reason why Delta Airlines stopped operations at SVO at the end of 2017.
The total Moscow airports market will exceed 100 million this year – all three are growing together, but how intensive is the ongoing competition? DME traditionally took airline customers away from SVO and you have more recently taken them back – how much do you also want to compete with Vnukovo? Is there not a risk that Vnukovo will increasingly want to compete with SVO?
Moscow is quite a unique city in that it is large and separated north to south with three airports that all have capacity. All these airports would like more passengers. One of the main differences between Moscow and many other multi-airport cities is that the different airports are run by independent companies, which intensifies competition. Each airport has its advantages and our competitors are not standing still. We are all involved in an ongoing process of modifying infrastructure. Geographically, Sheremetyevo is convenient for the Chinese market. We were recently recognised as the best airport in Europe for customer experience at the ACI ASQ Awards, and OAG and FlightStats rate Sheremetyevo as one of the most punctual airports in Europe.
How significant is SVO as a transfer hub to Asian destinations – is a Turkish Airlines-style Europe-Asia transfer hub a tremendous, but currently unexploited opportunity for SVO?
About 38% of Sheremetyevo’s traffic is made up of transfer passengers. We are strongest in the China-Europe market, where we are the number one hub for transfer passengers. About 1,200 passengers transfer between China and Europe at Sheremetyevo, each way each day. Moscow is well suited as a transfer destination in this market, since it offers more or less even sector lengths between the origin and final destination. For most Chinese travellers coming to Sheremetyevo, Moscow still represents their final destination. We are trying to develop more transfer potential, but it can be difficult to change the existing mentality.
What are your most desired unserved routes?
We still have great potential for services to the Middle East. The UAE is well served, but we’re talking about the rest of the Middle East. There is also potential for Indian traffic and more links to the Asia Pacific region. Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines could be better connected. Fuel prices are currently making some of these routes uneconomic.
|Tehran Imam Khomeini||18-Mar-18||Iran Air|
|Hangzhou||31-Jul-18||Beijing Capital Airlines|
|London Heathrow||28-Oct-18||British Airways|
|Dubai Al Maktoum||29-Oct-18||Aeroflot|
|Addis Ababa||06-Dec-18||Ethiopian Airlines|
Sheremetyevo International Airport’s new airline services in 2018. Source: anna.aero New Routes Database