Air Transport World

Changing the order.

The Western management style of Sibir Airline's new MD has the central Russia-based carrier envisioning profits

Paul Duffy is a veteran aviation journalist who specializes in Russian affairs.

Shortly after taking charge of Sibir Airline at the beginning of April, Vladislav Filev boarded one of its flights --his first travel since his appointment as director general of the airline. Unimpressed with the cleanliness of the cabin, he ordered the aircraft taken out of service. After arranging for a replacement, he went down to the hangar and began to scrub it himself. Staff were astonished but soon got the message. What was OK in the old days just wasn't good enough anymore.

Filev had not worked at an airline before. He had been department head of a major Russian fuel and gas company, and in efforts to even out cash-flow matters, one of his investments had been in Sibir Airline. At the 1998 AGM, he found himself named boss of the carrier.

In Soviet times, the Novosibirsk-based Aeroflot division had been enormous-up to 300 aircraft and helicopters catering to almost every aviation need of the people and industry of western Siberia. The eighth-largest Aeroflot unit, it carried 6.3 million passengers and 135,000 tonnes of freight in 1990. But now, Sibir was a much smaller, if more focused, operator. With its fleet hived off, by the start of this year it was operating just five medium-range turboprop freighters, four turboprop passenger airliners and 25 passenger jets: 18 Tu-154s, and seven 11-86s. The Tu-154 carries up to 168 economy passengers up to 2,800 mi. The similar-ranged 11-86 carries up to 350 in an all-economy layout. Sibir had been well-run by ex-Aeroflot standards but despite a turnover of $103 million in 1997, had lost $2 million. Filev was determined to change that.

He started with consultants. He contacted the Moscow office of London-based Atlas Consulting-set up last year by Peter Smith, former director of Air Europe who had worked in Russia, and Grigori Gurtavoi, former first deputy general director of Transaero. …

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