Western aircraft lessors have taken back only a limited number of planes from Russia following international sanctions that set a March 28 deadline for such repossessions.
Of the 515 aircraft owned or managed by Western lessors that were placed with Russian carriers before its invasion of neighboring Ukraine, only 79 have been repossessed, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. The lessors were able to take back aircraft outside Russia, for example, AerCap recovered a Boeing 777-300ER which landed in Tarbes, France, on March 27.
Thirty-five aircraft from the international fleet that were registered in another jurisdiction seem to have been re-registered in Russia. Of these, four planes were re-registered from the Irish register while the remaining 31 were from the Bermudan register.
Cirium points out that 261 foreign-leased aircraft operated at least a single flight in the previous seven days while 176 planes were parked in Russia.
In total, Russia had 981 aircraft in its commercial fleet at the beginning of the conflict, out of which, 121 have been transferred from Bermuda while 18 have been re-registered from Ireland.
The European Union had given aircraft lessors until March 28 to wind up existing rental contracts in Russia as part of sanctions imposed on Moscow. Industry body Aircraft Leasing Ireland (ALI) recently announced that its members complied with sanction requirements. More than 60 percent of the world’s fleet of leased aircraft is owned by Irish lessors.
AerCap, a member of ALI, had the largest exposure to Russia when the sanctions were announced. The company accounted for 142 of the 515 aircraft Russia leased from abroad. AerCap had five percent of its fleet by net book value leased in Russia by the end of 2021.
While speaking during a webinar on the Ukrainian crisis on March 22, the chief legal officer of Aircastle, another ALI member, stated that lessors were looking at the “long game” when it came to repossessing assets and getting compensation for the losses.
“Bottom line, it’s going to take time for us to get it resolved, but maybe it gets settled out,” he said. “Let’s hope the insurance industry and the insurers and governments can maybe all come together and figure out a way to make everyone whole.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued orders denying export privileges for three airlines from Russia—Azur Air, Aeroflot, and UTair—according to an April 7 news release by the Department of Commerce.
The export control prohibits companies around the world from providing any repair, maintenance, spare parts, refueling, or other services to the aircraft subjected to sanctions. “We are cutting off not only their ability to access items from the United States but also reexports of U.S.-origin items from abroad,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said.
“Any companies that flout our export controls, specifically those who do so to the benefit of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and the detriment of the Ukrainian people, will feel the full force of the Department’s enforcement.”