Russia’s $10 billion plane heist
Russia has seized 433 passenger jets leased from foreign companies, worth $10 billion. The move, in response to Western sanctions, allows Russian airlines to fly them on domestic routes.
In reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the European Union, U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom ordered aircraft lessors to end their lease agreements with Russian carriers by “force majeure,” with final effect on March 28.
Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the EU mandate by rapidly pushing a bill through the State Duma on March 14, enabling Russian airlines to re-register hundreds of airliners to fly within the country’s borders.
The aviation intelligence company IBA has been tracking the number of foreign-managed Russian-operated aircraft since the onset of the Ukraine crisis. IBA reveals the number of foreign-managed aircraft operated by Russian carriers decreased from 513 to 484 between the start of the conflict and the lease termination deadline.
Since March, lessors have recovered a further 51 aircraft, leaving 433 currently located in Russia and Ukraine.
The usual outcome of an aircraft lease default is a legal mechanism known as the “Cape Town Convention,” an international agreement that allows secured lenders, such as lessors, to repossess their aircraft. Russia is a signatory to the Cape Town Convention, but Putin has ignored the accord.
Dublin-based AerCap -- the world’s top aircraft lessor -- has submitted a $3.5 billion insurance claim for 113 aircraft stuck in Russia. The jets represent five per cent of its fleet by value.