Russia refuses to return more than 400 leased passenger planes to their owners

Anna Kholodnova

Russian airlines refuse to return 435 aircraft and aircraft spare parts that they leased from foreign companies. These planes cost billions of dollars.

This was reported by The Washington Post.

According to research by Cirium, leasing companies filed insurance claims worth $10 billion. In particular, the Irish company AerCap, which is the worldʼs largest lessor of commercial aircraft, claims that more than 100 of its planes are currently stuck in Russia. The company has already filed $3.5 billion in insurance claims against them.

The key vulnerability of Russian aviation is Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which are manufactured abroad and are owned by Western leasing companies. Western sanctions are aimed at this.

Even Russian-made aircraft such as the Sukhoi Superjet and Irkut MC-21, which the Russians designed to compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, use engines, avionics, and software from the US and Europe. The state-owned company of the Russian Federation is trying to develop an all-Russian engine for the MS-21, but, according to analysts, this will take time.

Due to sanctions, Western companies are obliged to stop leasing and recall their planes from Russia. A coalition of 37 countries in Europe, North America, and Asia imposed export controls that barred Western companies from selling new planes, parts, and software to Russia, as well as servicing Russian planes or providing them with online software updates. Even the refueling of a Boeing plane leased by a Russian company was banned.

But in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that allows Russian airlines to keep foreign planes for use on domestic flights. Western companies have so far returned only about 80 of the 515 aircraft they leased to Russia, according to Cirium.

"The lessor community as a whole has accepted the fact that most aircraft they have placed within Russia will not be repossessed," said Mike Stengel, a consultant within the US company AeroDynamic Advisory.

The executive director of the Estonian company Magnetic MRO said that before the beginning of the full-scale war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, his organization leased four Boeing engines from Russia. When European export controls were introduced, he had one month to return them. The Russian airline simply refused to return them. "My assets are still there," said the director of the Estonian company.

"“There is a fear among leasing companies that if and when they ever recover [their planes] they won’t be able to use them because they won’t be able to verify their air worthiness," said Jason Dickstein, the general counsel of the Aviation Suppliers Association of America, which represents the distribution aircraft spare parts manufacturers.