US airplane manufacturer Boeing said it was suspending parts, maintenance, and technical support for Russian airlines as the effect of sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripple across the global aviation industry.
The announcement late on Tuesday, March 1, came as aircraft and engine manufacturers, lessors, and maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) providers with Russian clients face various EU and US bans, including on leasing planes, exporting new aircraft, and providing parts.
The new sanctions isolate Russia’s aviation sector in a similar way to Iran and North Korea but will have much larger consequences given the bigger size of the Russian market and its high dependence on Western suppliers in recent years.
Russia accounted for around 6% of global air traffic capacity in 2021, according to aviation consulting firm IBA, up from around 4% in 2019 due to the strong relative performance of its domestic market during the pandemic.
Domestic capacity last year was above pre-pandemic levels and Russian carriers were seen as more reliable performers on jet lease agreements at a time when many Southeast Asian airlines halted payments or returned planes due to financial troubles.
Around 515 Russian jets with an estimated market value of about $10 billion are rented from foreign firms, according to analytics firm Cirium.
The lessors have until March 28 to wind up contracts under EU sanctions, but industry executives have expressed concern over whether Russian airlines will comply with orders to return the planes.
Peter Walter, director of technical and asset management at IBA, said he expected the ban on spare parts supply would also have a major impact on the Russian industry, as it had in Iran in the past.
“Because parts are limited we will expect to see aircraft that are on the ground in Russia being robbed in order to keep the remainder of the fleet operational,” he said in a webinar on Tuesday.
Russia has domestic MRO facilities but carriers had also cut deals with foreign firms. Aeroflot last year signed a long-term agreement with Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (HAECO) for component repair and overhaul.
HAECO did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Wednesday, March 2, on whether sanctions would affect the contract.
Russian airlines will also be barred from taking new aircraft on order from Western manufacturers, in a blow to Airbus and Boeing.
Russian airlines have 62 planes on order with the two manufacturers, IBA data shows, including 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets that were due to be delivered to Utair this year.