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TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Transaero
In Russia the aviation landscape is dominated by Aeroflot. The majority state owned carrier has been the flag carrier for Russia since their incorporation with the USSR in 1923. Until the fall of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot and her subsidiaries had a near monopoly on the Russian aviation market. However as the USSR began to fall in 1990, a new privately owned airline, was formed. Transaero became the first privately owned airline in Russia when they began operations on the 28th of December, 1990.
The airline started life as a charter carrier, leasing aircraft from Aeroflot. Service began with charter flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv in Israel, in late 1991. Nine months later the airline received their own Ilyushin 86 and began scheduled flights a year later. Their first scheduled flight was between Moscow and the northern city of Norilsk. Expansion quickly followed and flights to Kiev, Sochi, and Almaty began later in 1993.
Towards the end of 1993, Moscow to Tel Aviv was made a scheduled route, marking the first scheduled international route for the airline. The same year the airline added their first Western made aircraft, the Boeing 737-200 and added the Boeing 757-200 a year later. The airline achieved a number of firsts for a Russian airline. In 1995 they became the first Russian airline to have a frequent flyer program and two years later became the first Russian airline to receive FAA Maintenance Certification. The airline received its first next generation aircraft in 1998, the Boeing 737-700.
The airline grew steadily throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. In 2003 the airline agreed to purchase 10 Tupolev 214’s. In 2005, the airline continued its list of firsts by becoming the first airline in Russia to operate the Boeing 747-200, using the plane on its route to Tel Aviv and summer charters to holiday destinations. Service was added to Canada in early 2005 with flight to Montreal. Service to Toronto was added a year later. One stop service to Sydney, Australia, began in 2007. The same year that the airline began to replace the older Boeing 747-200 with the upgraded Boeing 747-400.
Major international expansion for the airline began in 2010, when a deal was agreed to add nine ex-Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400s. The deal was soon increased to 12 aircraft and services were launched to Beijing, New York, and Miami. In 2011 the airline received used Boeing 777-300s from Singapore Airlines. They also placed orders for the Boeing 747-8i, Boeing 787, and Airbus A380.
This expansion and high number of aircraft orders placed a strain on the airline. In March of 2015 the airline had racked up debts of 1.1 billion euros. The Russian economy had been in a major recession, causing a decline in the amount of Russians traveling and the number of tourists visiting Russia. The first sign of trouble for the airline was when an announcement was made that the Airbus A380s would be delayed at the airline’s request.
In September 2015, an announcement was made that Aeroflot would purchase 75% of the private carrier for a symbolic price of one ruble. However a month later Aeroflot announced that no deal had been completed before the deadline. By now Transaero’s debts had swelled to 3.9 billion euros, and an announcement was made that the airline would cease operations on December 15th, 2015. Aeroflot began taking over the leases of many of Transaero’s aircraft. Transaero began operating on a reduced schedule cancelling many flights. Competitor S7 Airlines announced a plan to purchase 50% of the airline in October, however the deal fell through. With no hope in sight, the Russian authorities announced, on October 24th, that the airlines certificate will be withdrawn in 48 hours. With this announcement the airlines last flight departed Sokol Airport in Eastern Russia on October 25th and landed in Moscow later that afternoon ending 25 years of service. Although private airlines are now common in Russia, Transaero still holds many of the first in the industry and will be remembered as a pioneer for private airlines in Russia.
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