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Business news, 29.06.2004 14:33

Pulkovo to Launch U.S. Passenger Flights

pulkovo "We plan to start the service next summer season," Pulkovo director Sergei Belov told The St. Petersburg Times.

The company said it is currently working out an interline agreement with Ireland's Aer Lingus, which would pick up Pulkovo's passengers at Shannon Airport and fly them to their destination city in the United States.

"We are in correspondence with Aer Lingus and plan to meet soon," said Vasily Naletenko, head of Pulkovo's commercial department.

Aeroflot, based out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, is the only Russian carrier currently flying to North America directly.

From St. Petersburg, the United States is only accessible through European British Airways, Lufthansa, Finnair and other European airlines via their transit hubs.

Pulkovo plans to begin with two weekly flights to Shannon, which Irish civil aviation authorities have permitted earlier this year, Naletenko said.

Aer Lingus, a low-fare airline that operates a fleet of seven Airbus 330s on transatlantic routes, currently flies to five U.S. cities-New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Without an interline agreement with Aer Lingus, Naletenko said the demand for flights to Shannon from St. Petersburg would only be about 50 or 60 passengers per week, which would not make the route economically feasible.

He said Pulkovo, together with Aer Lingus, expects to eventually handle a third of all the traffic between St. Petersburg and North America. One competitive advantage in the tie-up is that Shannon has a U.S. immigration window to clear passengers before they reach the United States, he added.

Pulkovo currently flies to 78 cities in Russia and 34 internationally. The company carried 2.4 million passengers last year, half of them to destinations abroad.

The airline operates a fleet of 46 Tupolevs and Ilyushins, but is looking to lease three new jets next year, either Boeing 737s or Airbus 319/320s.

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