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Sanctions May Ground Russia's Major Airlines

Published: August 7, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • Dobrolyot had been flying a month before EU sanctions sunk its leasing agreement with an Irish company.
    Photo: Dobrolot.com

The grounding this week of Russia's low-cost airline, Dobrolyot, by European Union sanctions has exposed the vulnerability of Russia's airline industry, which relies on aircraft leased from abroad that can be withdrawn at the push of a pen in Brussels or Washington.

Russian airlines lease 90 percent of their planes from international leasers, meaning any carrier to be blacklisted could lose most of its fleet overnight. Removing that dependence would take time, cost money and likely see Western leasing companies lose out to Asian competitors, industry experts said. As a result, air travel in Russia — already notoriously expensive — could become even less affordable.

"Because of their better fuel economy, most aircraft in the fleets of Russian airlines are Western-made … and these planes are leased by American and European leasing companies," said Andrei Rozhkov, a transport analyst at investment company Metropol. "Technically speaking, all these airlines could be targeted with the same sanctions [as Dobrolyot]," he said.

Dobrolyot, a subsidiary of Aeroflot that began flying in June, was blacklisted by the EU last week for flying to Crimea, the annexation of which by Russia in March sparked outrage in the West.

On Sunday, the company suspended all flights after its leasing contract with Ireland's AWAS for its Boeing-737-800 aircraft was annulled. Lufthansa Technik, the German company that serviced Dobrolyot's planes, also refused to deal with the company.

Dobrolyot said Wednesday it had placed a deposit to buy 16 Boeing 737-800 planes directly from the plane maker, which is not subject to EU sanctions, Interfax reported. The first planes are scheduled to arrive in 2017.

Most of Russia's major airlines fly to Crimea. Aeroflot, S7 Airlines, Uralskiye Avialinii and Red Wings offer regular flights.

Only Red Wings is insulated, as it flies Russian-made Tu-204-100 planes. All other airlines operate either Boeing or Airbus planes acquired through operational leasing.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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