India and Russia have agreed to strengthen their relationship by revising their bilateral agreement, allowing Russian carriers to operate 64 weekly flights to various Indian cities. The current agreement allows Russia to operate up to 52 weekly civilian flights to India.
India has agreed “in principle” to increase the number of weekly flights from Russia to 64. According to the official, the bilateral air services agreement will be amended in due course (Russia Set to Operate More Passenger Flights to India – The Hindu, n.d.)
Aeroflot currently operates seven weekly flights to India. Still, no Indian airline flies to Russia as part of India’s flagship Non-Alignment Policy in the Russo-Ukraine War, with Air India cancelling its last flight to Moscow.
Under the condition of anonymity, the official also stated that it would take some time for Russian carriers to fully utilize the quota of total weekly flights permitted to operate to India.
Last month, Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal travelled to Moscow to attend a bilateral civil aviation cooperation meeting.
According to a tweet from the Civil Aviation Ministry, a protocol on civil aviation cooperation was also formalized at the meeting on February 17.
The meeting, part of the ninth session of the India-Russia Sub-Group on Civil Aviation Cooperation, was presided over by Mr Bansal and Russian Deputy Minister of Transport Igor Chalik.
Under the India-Russia bilateral air service agreement, Russian carriers are permitted to operate flights to six Indian points of call or destinations: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Amritsar, and Ahmedabad. According to a Civil Aviation Ministry update on March 7, Indian airlines are permitted to fly to six Russian destinations, including Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Currently, the Indian government is not granting non-metro airports as a new point of call for any foreign carrier operating passenger services. According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, this is a “significant imbalance in the number of points of call-in favour of foreign carriers.”
India’s Airline Connections through Maps
Aeroflot’s Current Operations
Aeroflot’s fleet has changed significantly in the last year. Even though the total number of aircraft is slightly lower, more than one-fifth of these planes are listed as parked. Western-imposed sanctions have had a significant impact on aircraft maintenance and serviceability, effectively eliminating all future deliveries of Western-built aircraft. Indeed, as we approach the possibility of a new “Cold War,” Aeroflot’s fleet will be made up entirely of Russian-made aircraft (The Aeroflot Fleet in 2024 After One Year of Sanctions, n.d.)
The Seizure of an A330 in Sri Lanka
While repossessions of leased aircraft operated by Russian airlines were swift in the weeks following the invasion, an Aeroflot Airbus A330 was involved in a tense seizure incident last June.
The A330-300, previously registered VQ-BMY but re-registered RA-73702, was apprehended on June 2nd at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka. The plane was about to take off from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport when air traffic control told it to turn around. Passengers and crew from the aircraft disembarked and were accommodated in hotels.
A Sri Lankan court suspended the order, allowing the plane to take off again. The rightful owner, Irish lessor Celestial Aviation Trading, has been left one aircraft short due to its inability to repossess the A330. (After One Year of Sanctions, The Aeroflot Fleet in 2024, n.d.)
While a slightly smaller fleet may not seem notable, it is worth noting that Aeroflot’s fleet would have grown if sanctions imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine had not been imposed. While a single A350 was delivered on the same day the invasion began last year, several ready (or near-ready) A350s were in storage at Chateauroux-Centre Airport. Manufacturer Serial Numbers (MSNs) for those jets are 471, 457, and 463.
So, where did these A350s destined for Aeroflot end up? Turkish Airlines now has MSNs 471, 457, 463, and 493. Four of the six A350-900s scheduled to be delivered to Turkish Airlines in 2022 were originally intended for Aeroflot.
Western Sanctions and Its Impact on Aeroflot and other Russian Carriers
The Russian-led invasion of Ukraine has had massive ramifications. Since the beginning of 2024, Russian Airlines has been plagued by mechanical issues.
There were at least seven incidents where flights had to be diverted due to mechanical failures combined with some human error.
Beyond the technological damages to their internal aviation industry, the impact of Western sanctions is far-reaching, with nine suspending flights into Russia in 2022. According to the Federal Air Transport Agency’s register, the operator’s certificates for four of them have been suspended, and another, issued to the bankrupt airline “Skol,” has been cancelled. The Federal Air Transport Agency suspended and then cancelled the certificates of five airlines in the previous five years (2017-2021): Buryat Airlines, Pioneer Regional Airlines, Pskov Avia, Saratov Airlines, and VIM-Avia. n.d. (Minus Nine Overboard – Kommersant Newspaper No.)
The bankrupt airline Skol from Kaliningrad had its certificate revoked in 2022. Still, the Federal Air Transport Agency barred it from operating 30 helicopters and five light-engine L-410s due to STLC debts in mid-2021. However, despite having certificates, the Royal Flight Charter associated with coral travel and the business operator Sirius Aero, as well as two cargo carriers from the Volga-Dnepr group, Atran and Airbridge Cargo, have suspended flights due to sanctions. n.d. (Minus Nine Overboard – Kommersant Newspaper No.)
Many airlines in Russia communicated with AerCap about the lessor’s 116 aircraft that were stranded there when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 to investigate potential insurance settlements.
During an earnings call, AerCap CEO Aengus Kelly acknowledged that Russian carriers and their insurance companies had approached his company to seek a compromise. However, he admitted that it was unclear how such a deal could be reached, given that international sanctions against Russia would necessitate European Union and US approval. (Russian Airlines Proposed AerCap Settlements – CEO – Ch-Aviation, n.d.)
“As you know, we are pursuing insurance claims against our own insurers as well as the insurers and re-insurers of Russian airlines,” Kelly added. Some Russian airlines and their insurers have approached us about potential insurance settlements involving some of our aircraft lost in Russia. However, it is too early to tell if anything will come of it, and we have nothing else to say about it now.” He did not go into further detail. (Russian Airlines Proposed AerCap Settlements – CEO – Ch-Aviation, n.d.)
What is the Cannibalization of Aircraft, and why is that issue of Importance out here?
It is a process in Aviation that states that you must replace a defective component to meet operational requirements and dispatch an aircraft, but your inventory balance may be zero. You can use the cannibalization process to remove a component from a functioning aircraft or equipment and install it on another. (IBM Documentation, n.d., Cannibalization Process Overview)
The regular maintenance procedure is completed by releasing an aircraft or piece of equipment into service after issuing a replacement component from inventory, installing it, completing the work, and releasing the aircraft or piece of equipment into service. However, you may have no inventory balance, and the lead time to obtain a replacement exceeds the operational schedule requirements. (IBM Documentation, n.d., Cannibalization Process Overview)
The majority of Russian airlines require imported parts. According to many experts, Russian airlines have been cannibalizing their fleets for months to maintain and perform maintenance on their fleets, which range from small Canadian DHC-6 turboprops used by Far Eastern regional carrier Aurora to the flagship national carrier Aeroflot, which flies Boeings and Airbuses as well as Russian-built Tupolev’s and Irkuts.
Many aviation experts believed that Russian Airlines had turned to “cannibalization” to maintain their aircraft in December 2022.
“‘Cannibalism’ has been used for a long time, but only as a forced practice and on a small scale. And in our situation, it becomes the only way to replace the missing parts,” Andrei Patrakov, founder of flight safety company RunAvia, told RFE/RL Siberia. “The obvious disadvantage of this practice is that cannibalization reduces the aircraft fleet. No one can deny that it only temporarily solves the problem of a lack of spare parts.” (Sanctioned by the West, Russia’s Airlines Show More Cracks and Problems, n.d.).
Yakutia Airlines reportedly cannibalized many parts from two SuperJet 100 planes in its four-plane fleet a month ago.
According to one of Vedomosti’s sources, Yakutia has maintenance issues with more than just super jets. “At the moment, Yakutia Airlines’ fleet is 80% faulty,” he stated emphatically. According to the airline’s website, “Yakutia” effectively operates a fleet of more than 20 aircraft of Western and Russian manufacture. However, according to Rosaviatsia, the Yakutia fleet will have 15 aircraft as of November 2022, five vessels. These are five SSJ100s: four from STLC and one from VEB-Leasing, but the fifth was deemed unfit for flight after a hard landing in October 2018.
Yakutia, as an airline, was known to do cannibalizing issues predating the Western Sanctions when a cockpit glass had to be maintained. Still, instead of letting the manufacturers do it, workers did it themselves and likewise neglected to install plugs, leading to cockpit flooding.
However, with the damages that happen in Rosaviatsia due to western sanctions, the federal Transport Agency has given the go-ahead for aircraft cannibalization.
The government formally legalized the practice of cannibalization, even though it was already in widespread use. The sheer number of government decrees issued on the subject, Patrakov said, demonstrated “desperation.”(Punished By Western Sanctions, Russia’s Airlines Are Showing More Cracks And More Problems, n.d.)
“When it became clear that even if you allow the installation of original spare parts, but with documents from third countries, this is not enough,” he said. Russian regulators “then took an even more desperate step: They allowed non-original spare parts, even with documentation from third countries, including Iran.”(Punished By Western Sanctions, Russia’s Airlines Are Showing More Cracks And More Problems, n.d.).
There is also a Russian defence in the process of Cannibalization. According to Roman Gusarov, editor-in-chief of the industry newsletter Avia.ru, it is a common practice. “All airlines in the world are engaged in removing spare parts from some aircraft and rearranging them to others,” Gusarov said. “Nothing new is happening. We’re only correcting our legislation by not allowing any such special dispensation,” he said. “This is not carte blanche for dismantling aircraft, but a tool for managing your assets. Missing spare parts can be removed from an aircraft that’s not yet flying.”(Punished By Western Sanctions, Russia’s Airlines Are Showing More Cracks And More Problems, n.d.)