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Fears of industry crisis grow
Russian carriers suffered a 20% fall in passenger traffic in January year-on-year, usually the country's busiest month for air travel.
The Transport Clearing House (TCH), a government industry watchdog, said 2.5m passengers travelled on Russian carriers during the month, down from 3.1m in 2008.
Amid growing fears of an industry crisis, the TCH figure is twice the 10% decline forecast by Russian transport minister Igor Levitin in December.
Other figures released include a 36.1% fall in air freight, or 35,352 tonnes of cargo and mail shipped in January compared to 55,353 a year ago.
Domodedovo in Moscow, Russia's largest airport, also predicted a 15.7% fall in passenger numbers, blaming airline bankruptcy and a decline in buying power.
The airport, which serves major carriers such as state-controlled Aeroflot, said numbers would decline to 17.2m in 2009 from 20.4m last year.
Freight by rail through Russia also fell 35% last month. Sectors such as steel and concrete have cut output due to falling demand.
To cope with the current industry crisis, Russian airlines will absorb bankrupt firms and fulfil government commitments, reports said.
Despite arguments that it is the only way to prevent the Russian airline industry from collapsing, experts have warned the state carrier may hinder competition.