Russia-Ukraine War: Latest News
Russia’s biggest cargo airline, Volga-Dnepr Group, said it has suspended flights with Boeing Co. 747 jumbo freighters and smaller 737 jets, removing capacity from a global air-freight fleet already stretched by pandemic-driven travel restrictions.
The privately held airline on Friday said it was responding to sanctions that have cut off imports of aircraft spare parts and support. Related moves by overseas regulators have left hundreds of jets still flying in Russia in contravention of international aviation rules.
Russian carriers have suspended almost all international flights, which leasing companies said was an effort to prevent planes from being repossessed at overseas airports. Aviation analyst Ascend by Cirium estimates around 80 planes have been recovered outside the country by lessors.
That still leaves around 430 rented jetliners in Russia, valued at around $8 billion. Around 350 are still flying domestically, said Cirium, even after their operating certificates were removed by Bermuda, where most were registered for tax and safety reasons.
Many could be permanently removed from the rest of the global market because of inadequate maintenance driven by the sanctions, said Cirium. European Union sanctions have given leasing companies until March 28 to terminate their contracts with Russian carriers. Lessors face what they’ve said is the near-impossible task of repossessing planes still in the country without cooperation from customers.
Volga-Dnepr has stopped flying Boeing jets in recent days, some of which are rented from lessors including AerCap Holdings NV. The fleet includes 18 Boeing jumbos regularly used on international cargo routes and six Boeing 737s focused on domestic routes.
“The management of Volga Dnepr has made a conscious decision to find a possible solution together with partners and state regulators,” the company said in a statement.
Russia last week said airlines could register aircraft there, effectively offering its carriers a workaround for some sanctions. Leasing companies, though, have said this would trigger insurance claims that could take years to settle.
Leasing company executives said they were more hopeful of reaching deals with private airlines, versus with state-controlled carriers such as Aeroflot-Russian Airlines PJSC.
The decision by Volga-Dnepr, which also operates a small number of Russian-owned Antonov planes, to ground its Boeing jets is a sign that some carriers are trying to negotiate, leasing company executives said.
“These measures need legal evaluation that should be done together with lessors,” said a Volga-Dnepr spokeswoman.
Aeroflot suspended most of its international flights on March 8, but this week said it planned to resume services to Armenia and Azerbaijan next week using Russian-owned Sukhoi SuperJet 100 planes rather than the Boeing or Airbus SE aircraft it rents.
Boeing and Airbus, along with engine providers such as General Electric Co., have stopped providing technical support and spares for Russian carriers.
“I think maintenance ‘squawks’ will increase to the point the Russian airlines won’t be able to resolve them with no product support,” said Cirium analyst Richard Evans, referring to the industry term for a technical problem.
Aeroflot’s A-Technics maintenance arm this week also said it had been cleared by the Russian authorities to maintain Western-built jets. However, Mr. Evans said its experience didn’t extend to engines or aircraft landing gear.