Yesterday marked a quarter of a century since Belavia Belarusian Airlines was formally founded. The carrier serves approximately 60 destinations in the modern era and presently has a fleet size of 28 aircraft. Let’s take a look at Belarus’ national carrier’s journey over the years.
A long time coming
Even though Belavia is a relatively new airline compared to other flag carriers in the industry, its history actually begins on November 7th, 1933. This date was when the first Belarusian air terminal opened in Minsk. Three Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes arrived in the following spring, and they would become the first planes in Belarus’ air fleet. Three years later, the first regular route between Minsk and Moscow was formed. Then, as the 1940s got underway, the Belarusian civil aviation group was officially established.
Belarus registered a Tupolev Tu-124 in 1964 before the then-new Tupolev Tu-134A began flying in the country in 1973. Belarusian aviation then started operating the new Tupolev Tu-154s in 1983.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused a butterfly effect across several economies in Eastern Europe. After gaining independence from the USSR, changes were subsequently made with Belarus’ industries. Therefore, Belavia was officially founded on March 5th, 1996. This move followed a resolution of the government on restructuring air transport in the nation after the local Aeroflot subsidiary was nationalized and renamed.
A strong start
FlightGlobal notes that during the year of its founding, Belarus was showing its commitment to retaining economic and military ties with Moscow. With this in mind, Belavia was looking to feed both Aeroflot and Aer Lingus at Shannon International Airport.
Regular routes across Europe were launched. Passengers could fly to the likes of Rome, Istanbul, Larnaca, London, and Prague with the newly formed outfit. Even flights as far as Beijing were operating in the years that followed. In 1998, the airline merged with MinskAvia and took on several new planes, including the Yakovlev Yak-40, Antonov An-24, and Antonov An-26.
Scheduled flights to Paris from Minsk began with Tu-134s and Tu-154s in May 2001. Then, in 2003 later, Belavia launched its inflight magazine, named Horizons, which was published in English, Russian and Belarusian. However, it was this year when a significant accident happened on one of its services. A Yak-40 suffered a shattered windshield when entering Czech airspace. Subsequently, two Czech Air Force fighters had to escort the plane to a safe landing in Prague.
Belavia upgraded its fleet in the fall of 2003, leasing its first Boeing 737-500 aircraft. The following year it expanded further and took on another 737. Passenger numbers doubled between this year and just over half a decade later, allowing the airline to serve nearly 700,000 passengers in 2009. This growth was aided by the introduction of CRJ100 aircraft for regional services.
There was also another incident on February 14th, 2008, when one of the airline’s CRJ100ERs hit its left wing on the runway at Yerevan, Armenia during takeoff. The plane then crashed on the ground and flipped over, causing injuries to seven people. Despite the plane going up in flames, nobody died in the accident as everyone managed to escape in time.
The carrier emphasizes that it holds the leading position in passenger air transport in the Belarusian market. It also holds importance in providing regular and punctual operations.
“Belavia is a modern, rapidly growing company that meets requirements of the latest innovations in air transport and is constantly focused on further development and improvement of the airline and attraction of greater number of passengers. Among the priorities of Belavia is its fleet renewal, optimization of resources, implementation of modern information technologies and improvement of service level both in flight and on the ground,” the airline shares on its website.
“The Airline is customer-oriented and makes its best efforts to provide air traveling possibilities both by its own direct flights and those of its partners to continue their journey immediately to any country in the world as per customer’s needs. Business travelers and tourists can appreciate at its true value Belarusian hospitality and responsible attitude of the airline staff to fulfillment of their functions. Owing to the cooperative team of highly qualified professionals who are proud of their work, for the short period of time Belavia has showed itself as a reliable and competitive air carrier.”
Preparing for the future
Today, Belavia is a well-balanced airline and has replaced its aged aircraft with a balance of regional and short to medium-haul models. According to Planespotters.net, the airline holds 15 Boeing 737s, five Embraer ERJ-175s, seven Embraer ERJ-195s, and an Embraer E195-E2. The E2 only just arrived at the end of last year and is the first of three to arrive at the operator’s facilities via lease by AerCap. These planes will prove worthwhile as the carrier looks to recover following the industry-wide impact of the global health crisis.
Altogether, it has been a short but eventful history for Belavia. The airline undoubtedly used the experience of Belarusian aviation to help it get going in its early years. Nonetheless, it’s still only the beginning for the airline. It has shown that it is making moves to keep up to date in the market.
What are your thoughts about Belavia Belarusian Airlines’ operations? Have you flown with the carrier over the years? Let us know what you think of the operator and its services in the comment section.