Air charter brokers brace for a bumpy ride in the final quarter
Air charter brokers are bracing for an uncertain fourth quarter, uncertain whether this year’s peak season ...
The high costs of chartering an AN-124 have fallen by as much as 40%, in some cases, since the near-monopoly of the Ruslan joint-venture was dissolved.
The break-up happened at the end of last year, due to political differences between Russia and Ukraine.
Admitting prices for the aircraft, marketed by Antonov/Volga-Dnepr company Ruslan, had been high due to limited market choice, Oleg Orlov, Antonov’s vice president, said: “It was a monopoly, but now the price has come down and there is more demand.
“Some prices are up to 40% lower. It depends on lots of things such as positioning, and back haul, but the customers are very happy now.
“Customers aren’t cross [about previous prices]. It’s a business and it’s about today’s market. Price is a very important factor, and customers all like choice. We have to work harder and be more competitive.”
Antonov also confirmed that there would be no more production of the AN-124, a type with an average fleet age of about 22 years.
“You’d need an order of about 70 aircraft for new production,” said managing director Graham Witton. “There would also be many suppliers for many parts and challenges with things like cooperation and tooling.”
However he expected the aircraft to fly for another 25 years and Antonov is constantly working on “life extension” for them.
“As the years go on, operating any aircraft becomes more stringent, especially with things like emissions. So we are always ready to be compliant with new policies or procedures. Significant investment goes into this. But yes, every aircraft’s life comes to an end.”
Antonov has an advantage over now-rival Volga-Dnepr, which must have its 12 AN-124s maintained by Antonov – which has seven. The UAE’s Maximus continues to operate one of the aircraft type.
So, aside from price, how else is Antonov competing? For one thing, it took on some of Ruslan’s staff in the UK. And it is improving its customer service.
“Price is a very important factor, as well as making life easer for the customer,” said Mr Witton. “They are not bounced from pillar to post. There is always one guy who knows about the entire project. But Volga-Dnepr compartmentalises its processes,” he claimed.
Antonov has also benefited from Ukraine’s open skies deal with the US, which has boosted its work in the aerospace industry, and even the automotive sector, where AN-124s have been used to bring in equipment to start new production lines.
Military flying has also increased, added Mr Witton. But the airline wants to increase business throughout the world.
“We are moving everywhere. We have representative offices in Japan and Australia, and we are also looking at China,” he said.
And Mr Witton said Antonov had no fear of new competition from airships.
“We are transcontinental and airships would take too long. They offer a final-mile solution.”