Russia's SkyExpress and Kuban to merge operations

Russian low-cost carrier SkyExpress is to come under the operational control of regional carrier Kuban as a division of a unified airline.

Kuban managing director Alexander Stognushenko said that integration of the two companies, including their personnel and fleets, will be completed by the start of the winter season on 1 November.

"Afterwards, we'll perform all flights under the flag of Kuban Airlines but retain the brand SkyExpress especially for carrying out no-frills services," he said.

In September, SkyExpress expects delivery of a fourth Airbus A319. The unified airline will then have 24 mainline aircraft and rank as one of Russia's top 10 carriers in terms of fleet size and passenger traffic.

In 2010, SkyExpress transported 1.1 million passengers while Kuban carried 666,000. In the first eight months of this year, their passenger numbers rose 12% and 30%, respectively.

Under an agreement signed in August with Sukhoi, Kuban plans to acquire up to 12 Superjet 100s to replace Yakovlev Yak-42 trijets and expand its regional capacity. The carrier intends to firm it up shortly with a view to taking the first two Superjets in 2012, said Stognushenko.

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