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VistaJet and Airlink establish powerful presences in Moscow to meet demand
Switzerland's VistaJet and Ireland's Airlink Airways are among European operators basing more aircraft in Moscow to tap into the rising Russian demand for medium and large jets.

Switzerland's VistaJet and Ireland's Airlink Airways are among European operators basing more aircraft in Moscow to tap into the rising Russian demand for medium and large jets.

VistaJet, which has confirmed the purchase of Skyjet International, has even made Russia a bigger priority than the Middle East. "The Russian market is really taking off for us," says ceo Bing Chen. "The kind of scale that we are experiencing means that we will constantly have three to five aircraft there."

But Chen believes that business in the Middle East will experience growth that will see it become as important a region to VistaJet in the future as Russia is now. "It will develop similar volumes for us in the near future," Chen predicts.

Dublin-based Airlink Airways is basing two Learjet 60s in Moscow. Its expanded managed fleet is targeting rising charter demand in eastern Europe as well as Russia.

However, both of the charter operators have to balance placing increasing resources in Moscow with servicing other established and developing markets. Airlink's Moscow deployment comes as the latest additions to its fleet, two Hawker 850XPs, service Europe. "There is a great deal of demand in Ireland and generally in Europe," says ceo Ray Mills. "We expect this to continue and the 850XPs are very popular."

The Airlink fleet, which includes a third Learjet 60 and a Citation XLS, has a field of operations that spans North Africa as well as Europe. "They are all fine aircraft and good performers," says Mills, "but importantly they fulfil the owners' requirements on range and comfort. However, flexibility is a big part of the attraction."

Meanwhile VistaJet's Chen told EBAN that brokers have reacted positively to its acquisition of Skyjet International which was launched in March 2002 as Flexjet Europe. "We have more than 250 brokers in our network worldwide. Brokers are an extremely important part of our global network and they know we deal in a professional and fair way so there's been no problem."

VistaJet has not disclosed the price it paid Bombardier Aerospace for Skyjet International, which has offices in London, Hong Kong and Dubai. "The transaction is a perfect fit; the complementary synergies and strengths are in line with our goal of becoming the world's leading business aviation provider," says Thomas Flohr, VistaJet chairman. In May VistaJet announced that it had placed a firm order for 35 Bombardier business jets, including an option for an additional 25 aircraft.

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