Russian carriers look to avoid sanctions on international flights

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Due to the severe sanctions by the West against Russia, Russian carriers are looking to establish new hubs to ease international flights to popular destinations for Russians using in-house made airliners such as Sukhoi SSJ100.

Russian airlines operate predominantly foreign-manufactured aircraft, primarily American Boeing and European Airbus models. Nearly all of these airplanes were registered abroad, mainly in Bermuda, before Western countries imposed sanctions against Russia.

The European Union has banned Russian airlines from using its airspace since February 26. At the same time, Boeing and Airbus suspended the aircraft deliveries and supplying spare parts to the Russian airline operators. The Western aircraft leasing companies have started the repossessing process of the leased aircraft from those carriers as part of the sanctions.

But Russia rejects to return the leased aircraft to their owners, although it cannot fly them outside of Russia because of the risk of being seized by local authorities. On April 26, Russia's Transportation Minister Vitaly Savelyev said the Russian airline operators replaced the registry of 89% of the entire aircraft in their fleets with the Russian registry to continue to operate the Boeing and Airbus jets within the country.

On the other hand, there is no restriction for short-haul SSJ100s on international flights. They can reach destinations in Asia and Northern Africa from Sochi. The longer-range variant SSJ100-95LRs are able to fly Mumbai and Goa International in India, while the shorter-range variant SSJ100-95B can reach Istanbul, Ankara, Cairo, Jerusalem, Muscat, and Almaty from Sochi International Airport located in the Adler district of the resort city. Under these circumstances, Sochi International Airport, which is 1400 km south of Moscow, drew the attention of Russian operators as a most convenient hub to bypass European airspace and fly Russian tourists with Russian-made SSJ100s to popular destinations for tourists such as Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Dubai, etc.

Unlike other airports closed in Southern Russia because of the ongoing war with Ukrain, Sochi International Airport continues to operate without restrictions. Russian Airlines will first fly their passengers to Sochi with Airbus or Boeing jets and then transfer them to Sukhoi Superjets in Sochi for their final destinations.

Russian carriers currently own 148 SSJ100s. Most of them are owned and operated by the Russian flag carrier Aeroflot and its subsidiary Rossiya. Russia's Airlines are now planning to open 246 new services via Sochi in a joint effort with the Russian government.

Last month, the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) has declared its readiness for talks to clear confrontation" with Western aviation authorities. 

"The Federal Air Transport Agency reaffirms its commitment to the principles and goals of the Chicago Convention and declares its openness and preparedness for the establishment of a productive bilateral negotiating process aimed at clearing the confrontation through mutual understanding and respect for the rights and obligations national members have under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)," 

the agency said in a statement.
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