According to the latest reports, Russia’s Deputy Transport Minister Igor Chalik and top officials from the Aeroflot Group, S7 Group, Ural Airlines, and Utair have discussed the possibility of ‘nationalizing’ leased Airbus and Boeing aircraft that are currently in service with Russian air carriers.
Such radical step is being proposed in response to the ban on selling and leasing planes to Russian airlines, which was introduced by the European Union last week.
Last week, Brussels announced that the leasing companies have until March 28 to wind up current rental contracts in Russia.
“This ban on the sale of all aircraft, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines will degrade one of the key sectors of Russia’s economy and the country’s connectivity, as three-quarters of Russia’s current commercial air fleet were built in the EU, the US and Canada,” the European Council said in a press release published on February 25.
The largest Russian airlines operated 491 aircraft manufactured by Airbus, Boeing and Embraer as of mid-February 2022. At the end of 2021, they carried 80 million people, or 72% of the total passenger traffic of Russian airlines.
Moscow warned the West it would retaliate against sanctions targeting its aviation industry. The final decision regarding the nationalization of foreign aircraft hasn’t been made, however an announcement is expected by the end of the week, the sources said.
With the carriers having no right to hold onto the jets when lessors demand them back, the nationalization of the fleet is the most ‘realistic’ scenario for the Russians.
“There are no other options [to maintain efficiency] right now,” one source close to the discussion said.
The source added that the decision must be taken by the Russian government. If they opt to purchase the liners, the possibility will have to be discussed with the US and the EU.
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency told the media that the issue is at the stage of evaluation, when asked about the possible nationalization of foreign airliners.