Ryanair has been granted permission to fly to destinations in Russia from March next year by the country’s aviation authority.
The Federal Air Transport Agency, known as Rosaviatsia, will allow the airline to start regular flights on routes from Dublin to Moscow and St Petersburg, spokesman Sergei Isvolsky said yesterday.
Ryanair is in “exploratory” talks with a number of airports as potential destinations, its spokesman Robin Kiely said.
“Ryanair has had discussions with a number of Russian airports, but they are purely exploratory at this time,” Mr Kiely said.
Russian president Vladimir Putin last year backed plans for low-cost flights, which will require legal changes to permit non-refundable tickets, charging for meals and the hiring of foreign pilots.
Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, plans to establish a discount unit of its own after specialist no-frills operators EasyJet and Wizz Air targeted its home market.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said in September the airline was looking at new routes in North Africa, Israel and Russia.
“This is a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia so it’s no open-skies policy,” said Alexander Kazbegi, a transport analyst at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “If Ryanair wants to fly from other European locations, they need to approach governments there to do a deal with Russia.”
Ryanair operates more than 1,600 daily flights, connecting 180 destinations in 29 countries.
EasyJet, Europe’s second-largest low-cost carrier after Ryanair, began flights from London Gatwick and Manchester airports to Moscow Domodedovo last March.
Wizz Air, a low-cost airline based in Hungary, added flights to Moscow Vnukovo on Sept 23.
The Aeroflot proposal comes after the failure of previous discount ventures SkyExpress and Avianova, which closed in 2011 despite being backed by billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group and US private equity firm Indigo Partners.
Former billionaire Alexander Lebedev sold his low-cost carrier Red Wings Airlines in April for 1 ruble (2 cents) to an unspecified group of investors, four months after one of its planes crashed at Vnukovo Airport.