With harsh sanctions continuing and no end in sight to the quagmire in Ukraine, Russian airlines are preparing to deploy cannibalistic tactics in order to survive the year.
Russian Airlines Prepare To Cannibalize Spare Parts – Let The Problems Begin
Pobeda, the low-cost subsidiary of Aeroflot Russian Airlines, has announced that it is trimming its fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft from 43 to 25 due to a lack of parts. Pobeda hopes this move will help it survive “through the end of the year.”
I discussed the implications of this earlier in the month, but let’s look at this from both the angle of Pobeda (and presumably other Russian airlines which will be forced to follow similar tactics) and that of the aircraft lessors.
Airbus and Boeing have cut off Russia from its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) supply line. Furthermore, sanctions against Russia prohibit other nations or individuals from selling these parts to Russia. As such, if a part breaks or needs to be replaced, Russian carriers can either take the aircraft out of service or pull off the necessary part from another aircraft.
Pobeda’s move shows that it has chosen the latter option and will cannibalize exiting aircraft to keep as many planes in service as possible.
Due to a lack of spare parts, Pobeda airlines is cutting its fleet from 41 down to 25, hoping supplies will last until the end of the year. pic.twitter.com/QgpyiHZUeO
— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) March 25, 2022
Russia is not totally out of options, however. Enterprising individuals in China, India, Israel, Mexico and other friendly or natural nations to the Russian Federation will find black market channels to funnel parts into Russia. Even that, however, is fraught with risk and supply likely inefficient to keep up with demand.
For aircraft lessors, this move by Pobeda is devastating. Even as Russia has re-registered aircraft and maintenance records will presumably continue, the lack of verifiable records will render the fleet practically worthless. The decision by Russia to ban its airlines from returning lease aircraft not only provides immediate hurt for aircraft lessors, but long-term damage since the gap in records between now and whenever the conflict ends represents an insurmountable risk to leasing the aircraft to a new client.
With no end in sight to the war or sanctions, Russians airlines are already beginning to cannibalize their fleets. This spells not only bad new for the lessors of these aircraft, but for the airlines themselves. Even with black market parts flowing in, fleet attrition will result, limiting routes, limiting jobs, and limiting any hope of recovery once the dust settles.
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