Transaero – Russia’s First Privately Owned Airline –

Transaero – Russia’s First Privately Owned Airline

Aeroflot is by and large the most well known airline in Russia, but startup airline Transaero gave them a run for their money for 25 years.  Transaero was founded in December 1990 and ceased operations in December of 2015.  The airline operated scheduled and charter flights to over 150 destinations from its hubs in both Moscow Vnukovo Airport and Saint Petersburg Pulkovo Airport.

Transaero began life as a charter airline with leased aircraft from Aeroflot.  It was the first private company approved for scheduled passenger service in the Soviet Union, which was a big deal at the time.  The first charter flight was between Moscow and Tel Aviv on November 5th, 1991.  By July 1992, Transaero obtained their own Ilyushin Il-86 aircraft to help solidify their position as a serious player in the Russian aviation market.

Transaero became the first airline to operate scheduled flights in Russia when they launched the Moscow to Norilsk flight in January 1993, and soon followed up with flights to Sochi, Almaty, and Kiev.  The first scheduled international flight outside the former Soviet Union was between Moscow and Tel Aviv in November 1993.

Due to a rapidly growing Russian market, and the preconceived idea that Russian made planes were ‘unsafe’, Transaero began to operate Western made aircraft with the Boeing 737-200 and Boeing 757-200 in April 1994.

Transaero was the first airline in Russia to offer a frequent flyer program to its passengers in 1995.  They were also the first airline in Russia with an official FAA aircraft maintenance certificate, obtained in 1997.  The airline also began service from Moscow to London Gatwick Airport in December 1998.

As Transaero provide to be a success in the Russian market, they began to add additional aircraft to their fleet.  The first Boeing 737-700 came online in 1998, followed by the Boeing 737-300 and Boeing 767-200 in 2002, and then the Boeing 737-400 and Boeing 767-300 in 2003.  During this time, an agreement was made to purchase ten of the new Tupolev Tu-214-300 aircraft to show support to their own country’s domestic aircraft production capabilities.

In 2005, Transaero reached a new milestone and was the first Russian passenger carrier to fly the Boeing 747.  The former Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-200 entered the fleet on July 11th, 2005, and was flown on the Moscow to Tel Aviv route.  The aircraft would also operate charter flights to holiday destinations.

Transaero made an attempt to begin service across the Atlantic to Canada.  The airline opened their first route between Moscow and Montreal in May of 2005.  The following year in June of 2006 they also began operating flights to Toronto.  The Toronto flight only lasted for 2 years until it was paused, but later resumed once service to Montreal was canceled in 2009.

In November 2007, Transaero announced a new service between Moscow and Sydney, Australia.  The flight would operate using the Boeing 767-300 aircraft and would stop in Hong Kong for refueling.  The first flight began on December 24th, 2007, but was later removed.

In an effort to improve efficiency, the airline began to replace the aging Boeing 747-200’s with newer used Boeing 747-400’s towards the end of 2007.  This continued with the addition of 9 former Japan Airlines Boeing 747-400’s in 2010-2012, and increased to 12 once all was said and done.

During October of 2010, Transaero began flights to Beijing, Miami, and New York City.  Transaero was now competing head on with Aeroflot from Moscow on some of the most premium routes.

In 2011, Transaero took delivery of four Boeing 777-300 aircraft from Singapore Airlines, and signed an agreement with Boeing to buy four of their new Boeing 747-8 aircraft and four Boeing 787’s, as well as signing with Airbus for 4 of the Airbus A380’s.

Transaero returned to Los Angeles in April 2012 with nonstop flights from Moscow on their Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.

Things were really looking up for Transaero as they reported nearly 12.5 million passengers and 98 aircraft in 2013.  The airline also hosted a contest to redesign their logo and livery to be implemented on their new aircraft waiting to be delivered.

Unfortunately for the airline, the good times slowly started to come to an end.  Tensions with Ukraine began to rise, and the Ruble began to crash.  By March 2015, the airline had around 1.1 billion Euros of dept, which equates to approximately 77 billion Rubles.  Two months later, the airline was expecting delivery of their new double decker Airbus A380 aircraft (to be flown to New York and Vladivostok).  However, they asked Airbus to reschedule delivery due to financial difficulties.

Moscow has 4 main airports, and Transaero operated out of two of them, Domodedovo and Vnukovo.  The plan was to move all operations to Vnukovo only by October 2015, however, this did not happen due to the closure of the airline.

Aeroflot agreed to acquire 75% of the struggling airline in September 2015 for the price of One Ruble.  Unfortunately, in October 2015, Aeroflot canceled their offer stating that the deadline was not met.  Transaero had over 3.9 Billion Euro’s in debt and ended all operations on December 15th, 2015.

Shortly after the closure of Transaero, Aeroflot announced that they would be taking over 34 of the aircraft that Transaero had leased.  Competing airline S7 Airlines made an announcement that they were planning on buying a 50% stake in the bankrupt airline, however, this too fell through, and the Russian government announced that the air operating certificate for Transaero would be revoked within 48 hours.  All of the former traffic rights of the airline were redistributed to other airlines.

The final flight operated by Transaero was Flight 160 (Boeing 767-200ER) between Sokol Airport in eastern Russia to Moscow-Vnukovo.  This flight landed on October 25th, 2015.

The two Boeing 747-8 aircraft that were never delivered to Transaero were sold to the United States Air Force to be used as the next generation of transport for the President of the United States.  Air Force One.

During the 25 years that Transaero operated, they never had an accident resulting in loss of life.


About the Author: Brian Morton

My name is Brian and I am a frequent flyer that loves to travel. I fly over 500k miles each year and love to write about it. Thank you so much for being a loyal reader of! I look forward to posting more articles that you are sure to love!