Moscow: Authorities in Crimea said Saturday they plan to set up an airline to facilitate connections with Russia and encourage tourism in the picturesque Black Sea peninsula, a year after the Ukrainian territory was annexed by Moscow.
It requires a fleet of six aircraft and 40 pilots to serve 14 destinations initially, later rising to 36, according to a statement on the Crimean government website.
"For this project, we need 1.45 billion rubles" (22 million euros, $24 million) Sergei Tourik, an official with Russian manufacturer United Aircraft Company, said in a meeting with Crimea`s prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, according to the statement.
"Profitability will not be achieved before three years," he warned.
The aircraft will be the Superjet 100, which is assembled by the United Aircraft Company with many parts from Western manufacturers.
Crimea is isolated from Russian territory, accessible only by air and ferry pending the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
Multinational firms have mostly left the peninsula because of Western sanctions and Simferopol airport currently only has connections with Russian cities.
Setting up an airline "will allow a wider range of air links between the Crimea and other regions of Russia as well as foreign cities near and far," according to the local authorities, who are aiming for 490,000 passengers in 2016.
Aksyonov said it would also increase the number of tourists and business travellers.
The separation of Crimea from Ukraine has dealt a devastating blow to the photogenic region`s once-booming tourism industry, with tourist numbers dropping from 5.9 million in 2013 to 3.8 million in 2014, despite Russia`s efforts to subsidise package tours.