Russian airlines have canceled dozens of international flights out of fear that a majority of their jets will be taken from them. The repo man is after them with the power of Western sanctions after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Air Current reports that one Aeroflot jet avoided repossession on a roundtrip flight to Egypt. According to the account, the airworthiness certificate for the Airbus A321-Neo was revoked during the flight to Cairo on March 2nd. But Aeroflot Flight 401 was able to take off and fly back into Russian airspace the next day without losing the aircraft to authorities. That jetliner is actually owned by the leasing company SMBC Aviation Capital.
Based in Ireland, SMBC is one of the larger lessors of aircraft. In a statement, the company told me, “The business will fully adhere to any relevant sanctions and we are working on terminating all leases with Russian airlines.”
The company with the largest exposure in Russia is AerCap Holdings, also based in Ireland, which according to IBA consultants owns 152 leased aircraft.
As a result of the lessors’ attempts to get their jets back, Aeroflot and other Russian airlines have canceled numerous flights out of the country that could have made them vulnerable to seizure of a leased aircraft.
The sanctions go even further, with the intent of crippling the Russian commercial aviation business. Manufacturers including Boeing and Airbus have been ordered to suspend support of aircraft. That means shutting off the pipeline of spare parts and software updates.
Boeing told me in a statement it has halted operations in Moscow and, “we are also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.” The Chicago-based aviation company says it has also closed its office in Kyiv to protect its employees. Analysts suggest this is a longer-term problem for the Russian airlines. They may have enough spare parts on hand to continue operations for several months.
RUSSIA AVIATION- POST SOVIET
The Russian Aviation industry suffered greatly following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Putin has tried to orchestrate a rebound. Nearly a decade and a half ago, the Russian leader consolidated the remaining major aerospace companies into United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). The company is responsible for producing both military and civilian aircraft. In its latest five year plan , UAC says it will continue to produce a narrow-body aircraft and it is partnering with the Chinese to build a wide-body jetliner.
The sanctions are hitting another sector as well. Boeing uses titanium for parts in several aircraft. Some of that metal comes from Russia. Boeing says, “We have suspended purchasing titanium from Russia. Our inventory and diversity of titanium sources provide sufficient supply for airplane production.”
The Wall Street Journal points out that Boeing is involved with a Russian oligarch in a joint titanium venture . Boeing did not address the relationship in its statement.
For now, business ties are being severed. As the war in Ukraine continues, it would appear Russian airlines will not fly into trouble. They will, in most cases, try to stay away from the repo man.
(Cover photo credit: An Aeroflot Airbus A321neo passenger aircraft is seen at the Krasnoyarsk Airport in south Siberia in May 2021. Andrei Samsonov\TASS via Getty Images)