Russia is seizing Western-built airliners while sanctions block parts, maintenance, and support

·2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference in Moscow, Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via teleconference in Moscow, Thursday, March 10, 2022Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law authorizing the seizure of hundreds of Western-built aircraft operated by Russian airlines.

  • The planes are owned by aircraft lessors, which have canceled contracts following sanctions against Russia.

  • The seize could pose a risk to passengers because the planes may not receive proper maintenance repairs due to sanctions.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that will allow Russian airlines to take control of hundreds of the Western-built planes leased from international firms, Russian news agency TASS reported, per The Wall Street Journal.

The jets will be added to the country's aircraft register and be deployed on domestic routes, according to Reuters. The news comes on the heels of the island of Bermuda revoking the airworthiness certificates for over 700 leased aircraft in Russia, which went into effect Saturday night.

The battle between Russia and lessors has been ongoing since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, with the EU forcing aircraft leasing companies to cancel their contracts with Russian airlines by March 28, meaning those foreign planes need to be returned to their owners.

However, Russian authorities and airlines have made the task difficult, including airspace closures and a ban on most international flights.

Meanwhile, European and US sanctions have cut Russian airlines off from planemakers Airbus and Boeing, which produced the bulk of the leased aircraft. That means the two Western companies cannot provide support in the form of maintenance, spare parts, or updates for the complex machines, which could pose a risk for passengers and airline staff, the Wall Street Journal noted.

As Boeing and Airbus are banned from shipping spare parts to Russia, this could force airlines to turn to risky alternatives, like buying uncertified supplies from China or "cannibalizing" parts from planes on the ground, including lessor jets.

According to aviation consultancy Ishka, $10 billion worth of planes is stranded in Russia.

"The lessors may end up having to take a writeoff," Nick Cunningham, an analyst with Agency Partners, told Bloomberg.

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