The Ministry of Transport is considering introducing an additional fee for air passengers

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As it became known to Kommersant, the Ministry of Transport returned to the idea of ​​​​Rostec to introduce a fee for airlines in case of bankruptcy or emergency flight cancellations. The amount of the fee has not yet been determined. The interlocutors of “Kommersant” in the airlines believe that it will be at least 150-300 rubles. per passenger, and oppose the initiative. Lawyers note that the “passenger support reserve fund” will speed up the return of money for tickets in the event of airline defaults. But experts believe that the new fee will lead to higher ticket prices, and the benefits of it are not obvious.

As it became known to Kommersant, the Ministry of Transport has returned to the idea of ​​an additional fee from air passengers when issuing tickets, which has been discussed since 2021. We are talking about creating a “passenger support reserve fund” in case of bankruptcy of airlines.

In June, the Ministry of Transport notified the airlines that it was working on Rostec’s initiative to create a “national system of mutual settlements in air transport” based on a single operator – Aviagarant JSC. The source of the guarantee reserves will be the “regulated fee collected at the time of transportation”. Registered in the summer of 2021, Aviagarant is headed by Vice President of the Transport Clearing House (TCH) Alexei Shubenkov, who refrained from commenting. The company is part of the International Processing Systems, and they are 75% owned by Sirene-Travel, the developer of the Leonardo booking system, another 25% by the head of Sirena and member of the board of directors of TCH Mikhail Baskakov.

Rostec confirmed to Kommersant that the initiative is indeed being discussed, but “comments are premature until specific decisions are made.” The Ministry of Transport “Kommersant” did not answer. Kommersant sent questions to the Aeroflot group, S7, Ural Airlines, Utair, Smartavia, Azur Air and other airlines.

One of the top 5 companies noted that the system of mutual settlements already exists – this is ATSS managed by TCH, the fee in which is 185 rubles. “Rostec’s initiative concerns the introduction of an additional fee when registering transportation to create a reserve that guarantees passengers a refund. But TCH already provides such guarantees, and the additional fee will somehow increase the cost of transportation for the passenger,” they say. Another company fears duplication of payments in TCH and Aviagarant and does not understand how functions will be distributed between the two structures.

Kommersant’s interlocutors close to Rostec and the Ministry of Transport emphasize that duplication is excluded. “Absolutely not,” a source in the state corporation said, adding that the amount of the fee has not yet been approved, “the issue is being discussed with the participation of airlines.”

One of the companies believes that the fee will be at least 150-200 rubles. from a passenger. Another source in the top 5 airlines specified that the possibility of transferring 300 rubles to the fund is now being discussed. from a passenger. In his opinion, the creation of the fund “will inevitably lead to an increase in the cost of air tickets” and a reduction in passenger traffic, which will ultimately affect not only the business of airlines, but also the aviation industry, as it will lead to a decrease in orders for new domestic aircraft. Obligations of airlines and responsibility for their non-fulfillment are already enshrined in the Air and Civil Codes, another carrier emphasizes.

The interlocutor of Kommersant in Rostec objects: the purpose of the collection is for the passenger to receive compensation from the reserve fund in the event of a flight cancellation or, for example, the bankruptcy of the carrier. Now there is no such mechanism, he concludes. Kommersant’s interlocutor in the Ministry of Transport clarifies that the current FAP-82 does not provide for a procedure in case of financial difficulties with the airline. The fund will simplify and speed up the return of passengers’ money in case of force majeure, he says, in order to avoid a repetition of the situation with Transaero or VIM-Avia, when passengers have been waiting for money for years. This will also help to reduce the burden on the budget in situations with massive flight cancellations, like in covid, or in the case of sanctioned “repatriation” flights.

The Russian Union of Motor Insurers has a similar mechanism, says Aleksey Bredikhin, director of the ACRA Financial Institutions Ratings Group: “The fund’s funds are replenished at the expense of a special premium included in the price of each OSAGO policy.” But experience shows that the industry cannot cope with massive flight cancellations with the help of reserve funds, says Igor Smirnov, senior director for corporate ratings at Expert RA. As an example, he cites tour operators whose debt to customers for trips canceled during the COVID-19 amounted to, according to various estimates, up to 5 billion rubles in the spring of 2023. due to the lack of reserves of the Tourist Assistance Fund. With such “general collapses”, it is impossible to cover all expenses with preventive fees from passengers, he says, recalling that the budget in 2022 compensated 20 billion rubles. for flights canceled due to sanctions.

The idea of ​​a “bankruptcy fee” can be considered convenient, but only if the conditions for involuntary returns are clearly defined. Without this, its introduction seems disputable, says Uppercase Legal lawyer Valeria Doskovskikh, since the process of proving the reasons for the return through the court is a long and complicated procedure.

If the deductions amount to 150–300 rubles. from a ticket, then with the current passenger flow, the annual collection of the fund will be about 1.5-3 billion rubles. In the first years of the fund’s operation, this will not be enough in case of a repetition of “covid” or “sanctions” cancellations, the source of Kommersant in the expert community points out. And for airline bankruptcies, the volume of the fund seems to be excessive. But, he believes, if the amount of the fee is reduced “to a symbolic 50 rubles.” and publish the expenses of Aviagarant itself, the idea may be useful.

Aigul Abdullina

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