| MOSCOW, June 10
MOSCOW, June 10 The seats were cramped but the
price was right, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared on
Tuesday as he gave the Russian government's blessing to a
low-cost airline serving newly-annexed Crimea.
State-run carrier Aeroflot announced plans to
launch low-cost airline Dobrolyot (Good Flight) last year to
capitalise on demand for air travel among Russia's growing
It had planned to fly first from Moscow to St. Petersburg,
but took the politically symbolic decision to switch its maiden
flight to Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, after Russia seized
control of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March.
While the annexation drew Western condemnation and
sanctions, it has proved politically popular in Russia and the
government is taking every available opportunity to trumpet it
as a victory.
"The plane is cool, it's completely new. Its seats are
narrow, but the flights aren't very long so I hope everything
will be OK," Medvedev said after inspecting a Dobrolyot
Boeing-737 before its maiden flight from Moscow's Sheremetyevo
Dobrolyot - which bears the same name as an early Soviet
airline that preceded Aeroflot - will run four daily flights
from Moscow to Simferopol, with each plane carrying roughly 200
One-way tickets in July are currently selling for around
3,000 roubles ($90) on the company's website, but few are
available at short notice due to high demand.
Interfax news agency quoted Medvedev as saying the prices
were "really great" by Russian standards, and urging Aeroflot
Chief Executive Vitaly Savelyev to keep them low. Aeroflot has
said the budget carrier will be able to successfully compete on
price with domestic train services.
The airline will initially focus on domestic routes between
Moscow and cities such as St. Petersburg, Kazan and Tyumen, but
also plans to fly to international destinations including Kiev,
Istanbul and Barcelona from 2016.
Several Russian carriers including Aeroflot, Transaero
and Sibir are already offering discounted flights to
Crimea amid a government drive to boost tourist numbers there.
($1 = 34.3680 Russian Roubles)
(Reporting by Gennady Novik; Writing by Alexander Winning;
Editing by Mark Trevelyan)