Barents Region’s only east-west flight could be grounded in late October

Who is actually operating the route from Arkhangelsk via Murmansk to Tromsø, Pskovavia or Nordavia?

TROMSØ: Pskovavia’s permission to fly to Tromsø expires in two weeks. Passengers fears the route will be closed since no alternatives exist.



It is the same An-24 propeller, but has been repainted several times as air companies comes and goes. First Aeroflot, then Arkhangelsk airlines, followed by Aeroflot-Nord, rebranded to Nordavia and today with the additional logo of Pskovavia.

The old An-24 propeller is a well-known aircraft for travellers of the Barents skies. Under different airliner brands, the aircraft has operated the route from Arkhangelsk, via Murmansk to Tromsø for nearly 20 years. In the 90s and early 2000s the aircraft was also operating the route from Murmansk to Rovaniemi and Luleå.

From start of the winter-route season, on October 24, it could all end. No tickets are for sale after that date.

Norwegian aviation authorities has sent a clear message to Pskovavia that they can no longer fly, since the license for the route belongs to another airliner, Arkhangelsk-based Nordavia.

Pskovavia has painted their logo on the nose of the plane.

Nordavia was flying the route with the same aircraft until late 2012, when Pskovavia took over, painted a small version of their logo on the airplane’s nose and continued to fly to Tromsø twice a week. Tickets and marketing, air crew, seats’ upholstery, sugar bag to the coffee and the tale of the plane, however, are all branded with Nordavia. 

One plane, two airlines
The tricky operation of the route, with a plane passengers believe belongs to Nordavia, while it is operated by Pskovavia, becomes even more confusing when looking into the web portals of the two companies. Nordavia sells tickets and lists the route on their arrival and departure information. Pskovavia on the other side have no information about the route to Tromsø in their list of destinations and departure, arrival times. 

Nordavia have their logo pinted on the back of the plane.

Other avaiation portals, like Flightradar24 and Airport-data both list the plane that is operated on the route, with the registration number RA-46667, as registered with Nordavia.

Bilateral aviation agreement
Pskovavia wants to continue their flights between Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Tromsø, but the Norwegian, Russian civil aviation agreement lists Nordavia as operator of the route. 

Spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway, Bjørn Erlandsen, says to BarentsObserver that they have accepted that Pskovavia fly the route as an intermediate solution.

“When the Civil Aviation Authority approved the summer schedules to the company in March, it was clearly said that if Pskovavia should fly the winter schedules instead of Nordavia, we would need a formal approval of the company from Russian authorities in accordance with the air transport agreement,” says Bjørn Erlandsen. 

He says they have received an application from Pskovavia for the route, and a note from Nordavia that they have no objections.

Only cross-border flight on the top of Europe
For passengers, the route is the only one linking northern Norway with northern Russia. Alternative routes would be way longer and far more expensive, flying south to catch a flight between the capitals Oslo and Moscow, before flying north again. 

That would involve several air companies that don’t cooperate on code-sharing routes, it would take at least one day and due to high costs would limit today’s people-to-people cooperation across the borders.

Tromsø airport wants daily flights to Murmansk
Jonny Andersen is airport director in Tromsø and says the route between Tromsø and Murmansk is unique. 

Jonny Andersen is airport director in Tromsø.

“What we are trying to do here in Tromsø is to build the hub of Barents, the airport hub with connections to all the major cities in the neighbouring countries of Finland, Sweden and Russia. Having that route from Tromsø to Murmansk is essential. Without it we have a totally different picture than we have today,” Jonny Andersen says to BarentsObserver. 

“The route is the gateway from Tromsø to Northwest-Russia. I would really like to see more flights per week, even per day. Murmansk is the largest city above the Arctic Circle and of course we have to serve that one. Having the possibility to fly to Murmansk is absolutely unique,” Andersen argues.