MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Russia’s first privately-owned Moscow/Domodedovo-based airline Transaero (UN) began operations in 1991.

Transaero started life as a charter carrier with its first flight taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport (VKO), bound for Tel Aviv (TLV). Initially its fleet was made up of aircraft leased from flag-carrier Aeroflot (SU).

Later in 1991, the airline received its first Ilyushin Il-86 and commenced scheduled flights. Domestic rotations from VKO to Norilsk (NSK), Kyiv (IEV), and Almaty (ALA) were soon followed by international links to TLV. 

The Ilyushin-86 became the first aircraft UN owned and flew with the airline from 1992 until 2000. (Photo: Alex Pereslavtsev (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

A Large and Varied Fleet


The first Western-built jets arrived in April 1993 in the shape of Boeing 737-200s and later 757-200s. UN went on to operate various Western-types including Airbus A310s and A321s, Boeing 767s, 747s, and 777s plus three McDonnell Douglas DC-10s.

Transaero also flew a number of Russian-built aircraft consisting of Tupolev TU-134s, -154s, -214s and -204s, as well as Yak-40 and -42s. Ambitious plans were announced in 2011 with an order for four Airbus A380s and four Boeing 747-8Is.

Transaero planned to utilize the Airbus A380 ‘Superjumbo’ on its Moscow to New York service. (Photo: Airbus)

Rising Debt


However, this large and varied fleet and rapid expansion put a great strain on the carrier. In March 2015, it was announced that UN had racked up debts of €1.1bn. Russia was in the midst of a major recession with tourism to and from the country at an all-time low.

Both SU and S7 Airlines (S7) showed an interest in purchasing UN towards the end of 2015. Both deals fell through and UN was closed down on October 25, 2015. 

In spring 2016, SU announced the cancellation of 13 routes, claiming they were not commercially sustainable. Rosaviatsia has granted SU and FV authorization to operate a total of 32 former UN services under a new round of renewals.

In 2017, SU received permission to continue to fly a number of former UN routes for another year After the latter filed for bankruptcy in October 2015, the flag carrier and subsidiary Rossiya (FV) first gained traffic rights on 56 of UN’s 156 services under interim arrangements established by the Federal Air Transport Agency.


Featured image: Transaero became the first Russian airline to operate the Boeing 747 and flew the -200, -300 and -400 variants. (Photo: aeroprints.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)