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The most popular airport in Moscow will miss a crucial deadline for expansion before Russia hosts the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russian Government officials said Thursday.

Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO), Moscow’s busiest airport, was scheduled to get a third runway before receiving an influx of travelers and soccer fans from around the globe when the World Cup starts on June 14. The additional runway would have greatly increased SVO’s flight capacity — from 55 flights per hour up to 90.

The state aviation group, Rosaviatsiya, told Russia‘s transport minister that the project would not meet its mid-May deadline. In fact, reports say the runway was only halfway completed in March. Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported the delays were due to the slow bureaucratic process of elements of the project, like altering gas pipelines and buying new property from local private citizens.

SVO’s new runway is expected to cost about $1.1 billion, and it’s not the only project running behind schedule. Moscow‘s second largest airport, Domodedovo (DME) will also likely miss a deadline for a new runway before the soccer tournament. That project, running a tab of about $225 million, was 80% finished, but its contractor declared bankruptcy in 2016.

This is Russia’s first World Cup, and the country is investing about $12 billion in overall infrastructure upgrades, including new stadiums and hotels, and improvements to roads and airports.

A spokesperson for SVO said that as the airport was preparing for the World Cup, it took into account the fact that the third runway might not be completed on time. Roughly 41 million passengers passed through Sheremetyevo Airport in 2017, and it’s the main hub for Aeroflot. Domodedovo serviced about 31 million passengers, including those flying on major carriers like Lufthansa and British Airways.

When Brazil hosted the most recent World Cup in 2014, the country’s tourism officials reported that one million foreign tourists visited the country during the month-long tournament. Construction at both airports in Moscow must be stopped by mid-May to accommodate the potential early arrivals of World Cup fans.


Featured image by Anton Novoderezhkin/Getty Images. 

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