European budget air carriers line up for Russia’s St. Petersburg flights

British EasyJet, Irish Ryanair, and Hungarian Wizz Air have applied to operate from Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia. The presence of the three new carriers could significantly boost tourist inflow to the city.

The EU’s budget air carriers could attract an additional 6 million holidaymakers a year to the city by 2025, business outlet RBC reported, citing Leonid Sergeev, CEO of airport operator Northern Capital Gateway LLC. Pulkovo reportedly expects the largest increases in passenger traffic to come from Germany, France, the UK, Italy, and Spain.

The three budget carriers did not comment on the reports.

Apart from the European airlines, a CIS-based company has also applied to operate flights between Pulkovo and the US, Sergeev said. However, the official did not reveal which airline it is.

The airport expects to see more demand from the companies as the three airlines were the first to apply before the air hub officially announced that it had been granted the so-called ‘Seventh Freedom of the Air.’ The regime will be tested for five years and during this time the carriers will be allowed to fly in and out without landing in the country they are registered in. For example, an Irish company can fly from St. Petersburg to Rome or any other city in a third country.

Northern Capital Gateway has already asked Russian transport authorities to approve routes to 33 countries, and talks are ongoing. The non-Russian airlines plan to operate year-round, with 60 percent of flights in summer and 40 percent in winter.

However, some Russian aircraft operators voiced their concerns on giving the non-Russian airlines seventh-freedom traffic rights, fearing they may use it only in high season. It means that domestic carriers will have to fill the gap in low season, in winter, resulting in financial losses for them. Critics insist that Russian airlines should have similar rights in countries whose operators will enjoy the freedom of air from Pulkovo.