Aeroflot had been two years into an eight-year plan to transform itself into a leading global carrier. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in severe economic sanctions, cutting airlines off from any aviation products or services. So what does this bode for the airline’s fleet?
What does the fleet look like?
Before we look at the future of the airline, let’s take a look at the aircraft Aeroflot currently operates. The carrier operates a fleet of 184 planes, including a mix of Airbus and Boeing, as well as a few Sukhoi Superjets. Here is the summary :
- 54 Airbus A320-200
- 37 Boeing 737-800
- 33 A321-200
- 22 777-300ER
- 10 Sukhoi Superjet 100
- Seven A350-900s
- Six A320neos
- Three A321neos
Aeroflot planned to become an all-Airbus and Boeing carrier very soon, leaving Russian planes to subsidiaries. Photo: Getty Images
Aeroflot’s fleet has become increasingly westernized over the past two decades by becoming a mainstream global carrier. This coincided with the end of Soviet-era passenger aircraft, only a few of which are still in service today. By the end of this year, there would be no more Russian planes in Aeroflot’s fleet under the 30/30 plan. But that may no longer be true.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, countries around the world have imposed heavy economic sanctions. Aeroflot has been in disaster management ever since, being forced to close routes due to the loss of overflight rights and eventually canceling all but one international flight (to Minsk, Belarus).
However, Aeroflot’s greatest risk is that of its fleet. Data from ch-aviation shows that almost all of the airline’s planes are leased, meaning they are at risk of being terminated or seized. In recent weeks, lessors have made the decision to return planes used by Russian carriers or seize them where possible. This does not apply to local lessors or those from allied companies, but Western companies and big names like AerCap and GECAS are all looking to get out of Russia as soon as possible.
Aeroflot’s remaining orders with Airbus are on hold until political tensions are defused, a process that could take months or years. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | single flight
Aeroflot’s fleet is more dependent on Russian and Chinese lessors, making them less likely to be seized immediately. However, this is only part of the picture. Many Russian aircraft are registered in distant countries like the Falkland Islands, Saint Helena and Bermuda for tax reasons, which gives these countries the power to issue certificates of airworthiness. Bermuda has already stopped signing this document, making hundreds of planes unable to fly overseas. However, Russia is looking for a way around these sanctions to protect its aviation industry.
The sanctions require lessors to terminate all rental contracts with Russian airlines by March 28. To prevent a fleet exodus, Putin recently signed a bill that will allow foreign planes to be re-registered in Russia, guaranteeing their continued operations (at least domestically). However, re-registering an aircraft without a deregistration certificate is an illegal practice, causing all sorts of problems for airlines. While the forced nationalization of planes will give Russia time to protect its aviation industry, the lack of new planes means the future looks very unclear for the market.
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