Moscow's fourth international airport opens despite downturn

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (right) visits the newly constructed Zhukovsky international airport near Moscow, Russia on May 30.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (right) visits the newly constructed Zhukovsky international airport near Moscow, Russia on May 30. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) Moscow's fourth international airport Zhukovsky officially opened on Monday, but public transport problems and the economic recession put a damper on celebrations.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opened the Zhukovsky airport about 40 kilometres southeast of Moscow city centre, Russian television reported.

The new airport has a capacity of 2 million passengers per year, Rostec, the Russian state conglomerate that controls the airport's operating company Ramport Aero, said in a statement.

The airport will run around 20 flights per week by two passenger airlines from ex-Soviet Central Asia - Air Kyrgyzstan and SCAT Airlines from Kazakhstan.

It will also house two Russian freight carriers: Sky Gates Airlines and an Aviastar-TU.

The airport, built with an initial investment of 10 billion rubles (S$210 million), was originally planned to reduce the buildup of passengers at the three existing airports: Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo, following years of strong growth in passenger traffic.

Russia has since plunged into recession due to falling oil prices and Western sanctions over its role in the conflict in Ukraine, affecting people's purchasing power and leading to air travel falling last year.

The country's second largest airline Transaero has closed down and passengers are taking few charter flights to package holiday destinations.

In addition the new airport is currently far less accessible than its three competitors, since it does not yet have a direct rail link into the centre, forcing travellers to drive on clogged roads.

Medvedev at the opening nevertheless praised the airport opening as an important event "both for Moscow and for our country", saying it gave people more flexibility on travel.

Two other terminals are due to be built at the Zhukovsky site by 2020, taking the capacity to 12 million passengers per year and creating more than 10,000 jobs, Rostec said.