Since Russia launched its war on Ukraine, international travel for Russians has become expensive and difficult.
For Russians, flying abroad has become a difficult affair since Russian aircraft have been banned from entering European and North American airspace. Russia’s Boeing and Airbus aircraft also face the threat of repossession by Western leasing firms that own them if they leave the country.
For instance, AerCap—the world’s largest leasing firm headquartered in Dublin, Ireland—has filed a $3.5 bn insurance claim for over 100 of its jets stranded in Russia.
Domhnal Slattery, chief executive of Avolon—another leasing company based in Dublin—said that his company was able to repossess four aircraft this year and is planning to recover 10 more still stranded in Russia.
However, Russian airlines have been finding ways to restart international services to countries that will accept flights.
When the war in Ukraine began last February, international flights originating in Russia dropped from 1,126 per week to 181 two weeks after the war began, reported FlightRadar24.
In April, international flights recovered to 379. Most of them were directed to former Soviet republics, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, while 103 were to Turkey.
While there are still many aircraft in Russia owned by Western leasing companies, Russian airlines also own some western aircraft outright and paid off the loans on some others. This means that they can be used outside of Russia with no risk of being repossessed by the West, said an expert to Al Jazeera.
According to FlightRadar24, Russia is using some older model Airbus A320s and Boeing 737-800s in international operations, although Boeing and Airbus are no longer providing spare parts for aircraft in Russia and have stopped aircraft deliveries. Still, Russia’s airline Aeroflot has managed to keep some Boeing A330s in operation.
[Russia] has produced aircraft in the past, so there is a history and infrastructure for designing and producing aircraft engines and aircraft components.Mike Stengel of AeroDynamic Advisory
Speaking with Al Jazeera, Mike Stengel of AeroDynamic Advisory said that Russia’s aviation industry could be able to maintain a fleet of Western airplanes using some back-end measures and leveraging on its large aerospace industry.
Stengel added that Russia’s aerospace industry has most of the tools it needs to “keep western-built aircraft flying for decades.”