Analysts Speculate Russia Might Not Return Hundreds of Leased Airliners

Flight restrictions put leasing companies outside Russia in a difficult position.

Hundreds of leased aircraft are stranded in Russia, aviation consultants say, as a result of airspace restrictions stemming from Western sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

As many as 589 Western-built aircraft worth about $13 billion wait on ramps at Russian airports across that country, according to data and analytics company Russell Group.

“Clients are all trying to understand the number and value of planes on the ground in Russia, as there are concerns that these aircraft could be confiscated by the Russian government.”

Suki Basi, managing director of the Russell Group

“This analysis comes as the aviation war market faces the biggest potential loss from the Russia-Ukraine invasion since 9/11, with hundreds of leased planes in Russia that are owned by European companies stuck on the ground in the country,” the group says in a report.

The aviation war market is shorthand for the aviation war risk insurance industry, which provides coverage for violence against airlines including terrorism and hijacking.

Russell says its analysis is based on information from its database that tracks the number of aircraft at the world’s airports.

It is unclear—given widespread airspace restrictions, tight deadlines dictated by sanctions, and general hostility in Russia—whether the leasing companies that own the aircraft will be able to retrieve them.

Suki Basi, managing director of the Russell Group, says, “Clients are all trying to understand the number and value of planes on the ground in Russia, as there are concerns that these aircraft could be confiscated by the Russian government.”

Consulting company IBA, which identified a similar number of aircraft operated by Russian airlines and owned by leasing companies outside Russia, noted that under sanctions, lessors are required to terminate contracts with Russian carriers and get their airplanes back by March 28. But with flights banned between Russia and many other countries, retrieval will be “very difficult for lessors to achieve.”

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