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Cablegate: Direct Flights Resume Between Russian Far East and Alaska

R 080532Z JUL 08
FM AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0973
INFO DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC
AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
TSA HQ WASHINGTON DC
TSA ASIA PACIFIC CANADA INTERNATIONAL FIELD OFFICE

UNCLAS VLADIVOSTOK 000067


MOSCOW FOR FAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AFIN ECIN ECON RU
SUBJECT: DIRECT FLIGHTS RESUME BETWEEN RUSSIAN FAR EAST AND ALASKA

1. Despite high prices, uncertain schedules and a good deal of
behind-the-scenes wrangling between U.S. and Russian officials,
direct flights between the U.S. West Coast and Pacific Russia
have resumed, courtesy of the Russian carrier Vladivostok Avia
(VladAvia). On July 7, the first flight from Vladivostok to
Anchorage via Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy was successfully
completed, carrying a light load of Russian passengers. The
return trip is expected to be full of American tourists heading
to Kamchatka to see its geysers, volcanoes, hot springs and
other natural wonders.

2. Behind the scenes, U.S. Transportation Safety Administration
(TSA) officials have been doing what they can to cope with
last-minute planning on the Russian side and Kamchatka's
rudimentary infrastructure. Due to a late notice, the TSA had
to scramble to assemble a team to complete an inspection of
Petropavlovsk's airport in time for Monday's inaugural flight.
Obtaining a quick turnaround on visas turned out to be another
hurdle, although the Consulate and VladAvia officials did their
best to speed the process. Finally, the Consulate has had to
intervene to ensure that an electronic funds transfer makes it
through to Petropavlovsk so that the TSA team can pay their
hotel bills.

3. Despite such difficulties, the potential for trade and
tourism is enormous, especially as the Russian Far East gears up
to host the 2012 APEC summit by modernizing its transport and
business facilities and adding a range of casinos, western
hotels, and other attractions to complement the already famous
trans-Siberian railroad and the region's natural beauty. The
American Bar Association and VladAvia are joining the Consulate
in sponsoring a student essay contest on the future of
U.S.-Russian relations to highlight the flights. The winner
will receive a free VladAvia roundtrip ticket to Alaska. The
state Governor's office and the University of Alaska have agreed
to help support the visit with tours and educational
programming.

4. Comment: Based on the difficulties in getting these flights
off the ground, appears there are some in the Far East who are
not quite ready for normal U.S.-Russian relations, an attitude
that, if unchecked, may hinder the flights from developing
fully. However, with every trip to the United States by a
Russian student, businessman, or tourist, Russia becomes just a
little more likely to realize its vast potential for partnership.

ARMBRUSTER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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