Aeroflot is forecasting record passenger numbers this year ahead of plans to launch a budget airline called Dobrolet in 2014.

The Russian carrier posted increases in third-quarter sales and profits as it turned around the performance of regional airlines acquired two years ago.

Quarterly net income rose 88% to $543.7 million, while revenues climbed to $2.9 billion from $2.4 billion a year earlier.

Passenger carryings in the first nine months of the year rose by almost 15% to 24 million.

Chief executive Vitaly Saveliev highlighted attractive ticket pricing, cost control and the successful integration of regional carriers bought from state military conglomerate Rostech in 2011 as reasons for the strong showing, Reuters reported.

Ticket prices at the new lost-cost arm are expected to be on average 40% lower than mainstream carriers, as Aeroflot seeks to attract a new customer base.

“Aeroflot views the low-cost carrier market as a sizeable growth opportunity and a chance to diversify its business without the risk of cannibalisation. Dobrolet is targeting the start of operations in 2014,” a statement said.

Saveliev said: “Aeroflot Group’s strong financial results were driven by three factors. First, we offer clients a premium product at an attractive price. Second, we are managing costs effectively. Third, we are optimising the operations of our subsidiaries that are being integrated into the group.

“We are on track this year to serve the most customers in Russia’s modern history.

“At the same time we maintain our relentless focus on safety. This is bolstered by our aircraft fleet, which is the best in Russia and one of the youngest in Europe.”

Aeroflot, which has a fleet of 234 aircraft, was pinpointed as a privatisation target by the government but plans to complete a sale of stock this year have not materialised.

According to its latest plans, the government aims to reduce its 51.17% stake in the airline to 25% plus one share.