I have previously covered SAT Airlines in a July 2015 post. Aurora was created from the assets of SAT and Vladivostok Avia, which had previously been independent airlines owned by local government but had fallen under Aeroflot's control in 2011. The new post-merger brand of Aurora was presented on November 6, 2013 with the aim of the combined carrier to further contribute to the social and economic development of the remote regions of Russia's Far Eastern provinces. It was Landor Associates that were responsible for the Aurora branding. Initially the airline's name was to be Taiga Airlines but there seems to have been a change of heart.
The Aurora logo has been inspired by ancient cave paintings from Russia’s Far East, with Landor Moscow MD, Emma Beckman, commenting: “We used these ideas, merging them with the smooth curves of the infinity sign, to create an image suggestive of the comfort and quality of Aurora’s service. This form exists throughout Aurora’s brand identity and was designed to add meaning and distinction to its identity.”
Konstantin Sukhorebrik was appointed the Director General of the new airline, which is based at SAT's old hub of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the large but sparsely populated island of Sakhalin just North of Japan (it was in fact Japanese territory until a Soviet land grab at the end of WW2 but had only been so since the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905).
In 2013 there were plans to increase the number of flights from 172 to 534 by 2018 with a corresponding increase in destinations from 30 to 128 with annual traffic by 2018 to be 2.4 million passengers. Interestingly Vladivostok Avia had been a modern and successful airline: winning awards, interlining with United and operating a modern fleet of Airbus A320s and A330s. None of these assets would enter the Aurora fleet and it almost seems like Vladivostok Avia was wound up by Aeroflot rather than integrated into Aurora. This is also apparent from Aurora's shareholders which consist of Aeroflot (51%) and the Sakhalin Oblast (49%).
Instead of A320s Aurora would focus its fleet around the smaller Airbus A319. The first aircraft (VP-BWK) joined the fleet on November 11, 2013 with a second (VP-BUK) joining on November 22. It was December 27 when Aurora tookover the last of the Vladivostok Avia services. In January 2014 services from Khabarovsk to Seoul were begun followed by Vladivostok to Harbin, Seoul, Busan, Hong Kong and Tokyo. With one year of services under its belt Aurora was operating 6 A319s and a pair of 737-500s. The turboprop fleet consisted of 3 DHC-8 Q200s, 4 Q300s, 1 Q400 and a pair of DHC-6 Twin Otters. Between February and November 2014 Aurora transported 975,000 passengers. Many of its turboprop operations are on subsidised routes and the two DHC-6s are actually new build Viking aircraft.
As well as the A319s Aurora ordered another pair of DHC-8-Q400s and is planning on operating the type on the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Tokyo route from March 2016. The turbulence in the Russian economy following the Ukraine adventure has impacted Aurora, along with all other Russian airlines, but Aurora has continued to see growth and received its tenth A319 in February 2016. In two years since it launched operations it has carried 2 million passengers and was reporting 7% growth for 2015. Unlike most of Aeroflot's other subsidiaries it has avoided being swallowed under the Rossiya brand and appears on track to grow into a substantial force from its three bases at Khabarovsk, Vladivostok and Yuzhno-Sakhalin.
2013, November. Aeroflot Presented New Subsidiary – United Far Eastern Airline "Aurora" . Aeroflot.ru
2013, November. Russian airline brand Aurora turns to Landor Associates for brand strategy and identity. The Drum.com
Aurora Airlines News. CAPA
2016, February. Aurora Airlines Delays Q400 Tokyo Debut to March 2016. Airline Route.net
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: