By Gleb Stolyarov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Sheremetyevo Airport, Russia's busiest, is bracing for a 66% fall in traffic this year as it plans to resume flights next month, its board chairman said, and expects it to take about a year before a return to pre-crisis levels.
"We expect that the restoration of passenger traffic to levels seen in 2019 will gradually occur over the course of a year," Alexander Ponomarenko, who is also a co-owner of the airport, told Reuters in an interview.
"We would like to believe that this will happen sooner."
Ponomarenko said he expected passenger traffic to be around 17 million people if international flights resume in July.
Moscow's Sheremetyevo, base of state airline Aeroflot, handled 49.9 million passengers last year.
Ponomarenko said revenue, which stood at 82.1 billion roubles ($1.19 billion) in 2019, could fall to 32 billion this year.
The airport has continued to fly domestically and to fly repatriation flights for Russians and foreign citizens returning home since Russia suspended international flights in March.
Sheremetyevo's passenger traffic fell 96% in April and by 18% in the first quarter.
Ponomarenko said the airport, which had an investment plan worth around $2.5 billion, has been forced to temporarily freeze certain investments.
He said, however, that the planned reconstruction of its first runway and the modernisation of its baggage handling system would not been affected.
Russia has reported 441,108 cases of the coronavirus and 5,384 deaths.
(Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Jason Neely)
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