THE PAST FEW YEARS HAVE BEEN A major ordeal for Russia's commercial airlines. Beginning in 2000 and continuing through 2004, operators enjoyed significant traffic growth, with passenger numbers increasing at an average rate of 10% annually. But in 2005 that growth slowed dramatically, to just 3.9% from 14.9% the year before. The root cause of the slowdown was the rapid rise in fuel prices, up 60% from June to December 2004, which worsened the economics of Soviet-built aircraft just as ...

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