Saratov Airlines is a Russian regional carrier based at Saratov Tsentralny Airport and previously known as Saravia.
Founded in 1931, Saratov Airlines was called Saratov United Air Squad and was a part of Aeroflot. At that time, the main objectives of the pilots were the aerial application of pesticides (crop dusting) or fertilizer (aerial topdressing) and fighting malarial mosquitoes.
In 1933, Saratov Airlines started offering postal services and, in 1935, passenger transportation. The first passenger route to Moscow was operated with planes Stal-2, Stal-3, and Polikarpov R-5 aircraft, which had a capacity of 2 to 6 passengers. The following year, in 1936, Saratov aircraft began to be used in the sanitary transport.
After the World War II, the Saratov fleet was represented only by Polikarpov Po-2 aircraft. Only in 1954, Saratov Airlines managed to add Lisunov Li-2 aircraft to its fleet.
The 1970s and 1980s brought the greatest development of the airline: Saratov Airlines was flying to 60 cities in the Soviet Union with new aircraft types: Yakolev Yak-40, and later Yak-42.
The ’90s, like for most airlines in Russia, was the most difficult period as the aviation industry was deprived of state support and was sent on an independent voyage. Prices for aircraft and aviation fuel skyrocketed (only in 1992 to 200 times), making air transportation unprofitable. Aeroflot disintegrated into 450 air carriers, not all of which were able to survive these times. Saratov Airlines survived during these difficult times by leasing four of its Yak-42 to several foreign airlines.
In 1994, the airline was incorporated as a joint-stock company, and Saratov United Air Squad became Saratov Airlines doing business under the name Saravia.
In 1997, Saratov Tsentralny Airport received international status, which allowed Saravia to carry out direct flights to the CIS countries and abroad.
In 2000, Saravia received the prestigious Wings of Russia award for Airline of the Year – Domestic Passenger Carrier. The Wings of Russia Award is accepted as Russia’s only program recognizing excellence in commercial air transport.
In 2006, Saravia had a fleet of seven Yak-42 aircraft and was enjoying a monopoly on commercial flights between Moscow and Saratov and aircraft maintenance at Saratov Airport.
In 2012, Saravia was sold to private investors by Aeroflot, which acquired a 51% majority stake in the regional carrier in 2011 as part of a transaction with Rostekhnologii). Arkady Evstafiev, who was previously holding a 25% stake in the company, became Saravia’s new majority shareholder.
In December 2013, two Embraer 195 114-seat aircraft joined the fleet, Saravia becoming the first Russian operator of Embraer E-Jets. With the arrival of the two Embraer 195, Saravia rebranded as Saratov Airlines.
In 2014, with the new aircraft replacing the aging fleet of Yak-42s, Saratov Airlines significantly expanded its route network with flights to Turkey fly to the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Egypt.
In October 2015, Saratov Airlines was sanctioned by the Russian aviation authorities (Rosaviatsia) after a violation of security rules (the presence of persons other than flight crew in the cockpit during operations). From October 26, 2015, the airline is no longer allowed to operate international flights. The airline has since enforced various policy changes to ensure a repeat of the event never happens again.
Since 1990, Saratov Airlines was involved in several incidents, but no fatal accidents.