An as yet undisclosed number of UK carriers have written to the Department of Transport (DfT) expressing their interest in operating routes between London Heathrow and Moscow Domodedovo ahead of scheduled talks with the Russian Government in Moscow next week when the issue of air service rights between the two countries will be discussed.
Under the current agreement, airlines from both countries are limited to 35 services per week between Moscow and London. At present British Airways and Aeroflot are each allocated 21 services per week while bmi and Transaero can each operate 14.
Bmi currently flies twice-daily between London Heathrow and Moscow Domodedovo and is set to continue doing so until October when the slots will become vacant.
Simon Knight, head of aviation negotiations at the Department for Transport, said: “A number of airlines have spotted that bmi will no longer operating from October and they have written to us expressing their interest. It is fair to say there are more carriers interested than there are allocations i.e. more than one.”
Knight said the DfT was keen to secure more services from the Russians during the talks next week in order to satisfy all demand and avoid triggering a scare capacity review, in which the CAA would have to step in to judge which of the competing airlines would win the right to operate bmi’s 14 allocations.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said: "We have stated our intention to apply for all of the remedy slots made available following British Airways acquisition of bmi, and that remains our intention. We will see how this process goes but have nothing further to add at the moment while it is ongoing."
Amongst the delegation travelling to Moscow next week is London City Airport’s head of sales Bernard Lavelle who said he hoped the talks could pave the way for new services from the London airport to the Russian capital.
“What we desire is to open up the ability for carriers to begin operating services from London City to Russia. We have Canary Wharf and the city just down the road so there is great potential to open this up to Russia one of the key BRIC nations,” Lavelle said.
The current UK-Russia air services agreement also allows UK airlines to operate up to seven flights a week to eight points in Russia and Knight said the government was keen to increase this allocation, especially on services between London and St Petersburg.
They will also press the Russian Government to honour a commitment made last December that by January 2014 it will put an end to a system under which foreign carriers overflying Siberia have to pay a fee to Aeroflot.