LONDON — Transaero, Russia’s first privately-owned airline, has grown to become the country’s second-largest carrier. It has expanded without pause since its creation in 1991. In Part 1 of this Airways High Flyer interview, DCEO Dmitry Stolyarov assessed the financial situation of the airline, and now assesses the future fleet plan of the airline, as well as Transaero’s cabin products and services.
Airways: You have both Boeing 747-8I and Airbus A380 on order. How many seats and how many classes will these aircraft carry in Transaero service?
Dmitry Stolyarov: Transaero has a contract for four Airbus A380s. In view of the present economic conditions, we are conducting talks with the partners on setting a new delivery schedule and on possibly altering the financing scheme. The latter is due to the current situation in the banking sector.
We are expecting to receive a new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental next year. It is too early to talk about the exact delivery date.
In April 2014 we made an announcement on the interior design of the A380. The plans are to configure the aircraft with three classes – Imperial (12 seats), Business (24 seats) and Economy (616 seats) – with an overall capacity of 652 seats. We shall come back to the issue of the planned route network closer to the delivery date.
The Boeing 747-8 will have passenger capacity of 464 seats and will also be configured with three classes – Imperial (8 seats), Business (32 seats) and Economy (424 seats). The passenger cabin will feature Mood Light interiors, in-seat video IFE (Panasonic, EX3 IFE), internet equipment and Wi-Fi media streaming.
Transaero plans to operate the B747-8 aircraft on high-demand routes that are currently served by the Boeing 747-400.
At present, the highest demand in terms of operations is for mid-range aircraft. That is why in 2015 the airline plans to receive six new aircraft: two Boeing 737-800s (the first of these joined the fleet at the end of May) and four A321s. These will be delivered as part of our fleet renewal program.
After the summer flight season we shall be able to optimize the fleet and withdraw five Вoeing 737s from operations. Within the next several months we’ll withdraw two Вoeing 747-400s and at the end of the summer season — one Вoeing 767.
When will you firm up your letter of intent for 12 A330neo and 8 A330ceo?
We shall be able to talk about this in due time.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities and the biggest dangers to Transaero in the next 1-2 years?
I’d say the biggest opportunities for the next two years are: enhancing business efficiency, starting the fleet renewal program and introducing the company’s new visual branding for the new aircraft.
In the aviation industry we usually do not speak about threats, but rather about potential risks that are taken into consideration when making forecasts and planning operational activities. We shall do everything to minimize risks.
In 2013 Skytrax awarded you the ‘most improved airline’ prize. Do you have more improvements in passenger service in the pipeline?
It is impossible to stop the enhancement process. With the introduction of our new corporate identity we opened a new chapter in the history of the airline, which aims at positive changes in all traveler touch points.
We have already launched a number of new online services on our website – hotel booking, car rental, web check-in at all departure points, online purchasing of reward tickets for participants of Transaero’s Privilege loyalty program and paying for extra luggage. Online check-in has been significantly improved. All these online service improvements have led to the growth of online sales. In the first four months of 2015 they increased by 4.5 times compared with the same period in 2014.
As a part of the visual rebranding of the airline we plan to redesign the website and mobile app. There will also be gradual rebranding of some service elements and navigation signs at airports. Aircraft interiors will be renewed at scheduled maintenance and overhaul periods.
Transaero is perhaps the only airline with five classes of cabin. How is the Imperial class progressing – do you have good load factors for that cabin?
Transaero indeed offers five classes of service: Imperial (first class), Business, Premium, Economy and Discount. Premium class provides onboard and ground handling services in line with Business class standards, the seats, however, are of the classical type as oppose to the cocoon type in Business class. Premium class is available on Boeing 777-200 and some Boeing 767 aircraft.
We offer up to three classes on a flight. The exception is flights with Discount class, which are operated using Boeing 737s in a single-class configuration.
Interestingly, Transaero launched Imperial class during the global financial crisis of 2008. This proved that crises bring new opportunities. Imperial class has become popular among passengers who would have otherwise chosen business jets, but with the introduction of Imperial class became Transaero clients.
We see stable demand for this product. For the first four months of 2015 Transaero carried 13% more passengers in Imperial class than in the same period of 2014.
You introduced Discount Class last year. How is that different from Economy class and has it been popular?
Transaero’s low-budget service Discount class was launched in January 2015. Since then more than 2.9 million passengers have used it. In order to introduce this service we reconfigured 16 of our Boeing 737s into a single-class configuration.
Discount class is in high demand, in particular on domestic flights. It now covers more than 35 routes.
What differentiates Discount class from Economy class is the option of lower prices for a more restricted service. Particularly, these are operated solely from Moscow Domodedovo and St Petersburg Pulkovo airports. Flights with Economy class are carried out from all airports where we operate; also, Discount class offer passengers a snack and water only. They can also buy some food and drink on board. Economy class food service varies depending on the duration of the flight: on less than 2.5-hour flights passengers are offered a snack, water and drinks, on flights of between 2.5-3.5 hours they receive additional salads and pies, while on flights of more than 3.5 hours passengers get hot meals.
Discount class offers passengers 10kg or 20kg luggage allowance, depending on their type of ticket. Economy class offers one free checked piece of baggage up to 25kg, or two pieces up to 50kg for transatlantic flights.