The Rise & Fall Of Russia’s Transaero

Transaero’s story may be short, but it did leave a legacy in the 25 years that it was active. It became the first-ever privately-owned airline in Russian history when it was founded on 28th December 1990. However, it filed for bankruptcy on 1st October 2015, before ceasing operations in the same month.

Transaero showed plenty of intent since it was founded. Photo: Getty Images

A change of scene

The fall of the Soviet Union as the 1990s approached opened up new opportunities in the region. Aeroflot dominated Russian aviation, but a new player fancied its chances.

According to Airline Geeks, Transaero initially leased aircraft from Aeroflot to perform charter flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv in November 1991. However, the rising star quickly found independence by receiving its own Ilyushin 86 plane at the end of the same year.

Its first scheduled service was a domestic flight between Moscow and the industrial city of Norilsk. In the next few years, the airline rapidly expanded across Russia’s neighborhood with flights to Kyiv, Sochi, and Almaty, before making Tel Aviv a scheduled service in 1993.

As Transaero kept growing throughout the ’90s, newer planes were also needed. Therefore, it soon took on the Boeing 737-200, Boeing 757-200, and 737-700. This progress helped the company become the first Russian airline to have a frequent flyer program. Furthermore, it was the first Russian carrier to receive FAA Maintenance Certification.

Transaero Airbus aircraft
Transaero was a pioneering operator. Photo: Airbus

Into the new millennium

At the turn of the century, there was even more growth when it came to the airline’s fleet and international routes. It added flights to Montreal and Toronto in 2005 and 2006, before flying south to Sydney a year later.

Transaero’s confidence grew as 2010 approached, and it reached a deal for 12 747-400s. These planes were used on flights to Beijing, New York, and Miami. It also soon received used 777-300s from Singapore Airlines.

Even in the years leading up to the firm’s bankruptcy, it still had ambitious plans to expand. In 2011, it placed an order for four Airbus A380s. Additionally, it ordered four Boeing 747-8ls in the same period.

Both of these jumbos are perfect for taking passengers from Russia to long-distance destinations across the continents. According to Eurasian Business Briefing, the airline planned to use the A380 on trips to Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Dubai, and Barcelona starting from the fall of 2015. The Dominican Republic route would have meant that Transaero would have been the first carrier to operate the A380 in the country.

Transaero Airbus plane
The business was still aiming high in the period leading up to its demise. Photo: Airbus

Piling up the costs

Ultimately, the airline’s enthusiastic aircraft orders targets and expansion goals put it in a challenging financial situation. By March 2015, it was in debt by €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion). Moreover, the Russian economy was in a bad state, which meant that fewer passengers were traveling to and from the country. Therefore, the company was forced to cease operations before the year was over.

Even though it has been five years since Transaero last hit the air, it has recently had an impact on global affairs. The operator never had a chance to take its 747 units to the skies. However, they still have an essential role to play as the United States president’s two new Air Force One jets are modifications of the Russian outfit’s orders.

Transaero’s story was cut short before the airline could reach its potential. However, it still managed to provide a series of firsts within Russia’s aviation industry.

What are your thoughts on the history of Transaero? Have you ever flown with the airline? Let us know what you think in the comment section.