Ryanair gets green light to begin flights from Dublin to Russia
Ryanair has been granted permission to fly to destinations in Russia from March 2014 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.
Ryanair is in "exploratory" talks with a number of airports as potential destinations, according to its spokesman Robin Kiely.
"Ryanair has had discussions with a number of Russian airports, but they're purely exploratory at this time," added Mr Kiely.
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. OAO Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline, plans to establish a discount unit of its own at a cost of $100m 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."
EasyJet, Europe's second-largest low-cost carrier after Ryanair, began flights from London Gatwick to Moscow Domo-dedovo in March and began serving the Russian capital from Manchester 10 days later.
Wizz Air, a low-cost airline based in Hungary, added flights to Moscow Vnukovo airport in September.
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 one ruble to investors, four months after one of its planes crashed at Vnukovo Airport. (Bloomberg)