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Nov 11, 2021
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Aeroflot is shutting down the sky, and Russia is shutting down the sky for America and Europe

Aeroflot is shutting down the sky, and Russia is shutting down the sky for America and Europe

Photo: Sergey Malgavko / TASS

The American building of Bloomberg reported that the leaders of the European Union and the United States are considering the possibility of imposing sanctions against Aeroflot, as well as Turkish Airlines in connection with the migration crisis that erupted on the border of Belarus and Poland. Allegedly, individuals and companies “involved in the delivery of migrants to the borders of the European Union” through Belarus can become persons involved in the new package of restrictions.

This is not the first information attack on the largest Russian aviation company in connection with the crisis. On November 10, Politico wrote about possible sanctions, according to the authors, their goal is “to put pressure on officials of Belarus and on airlines that help transport migrants.”

First of all, they talked about the Belarusian carrier Belavia, but then it was mentioned that flights to Minsk are also operated by Russian airlines Aeroflot, Utair and Nordwind Airlines, as well as Turkish Airlines and FlyDubai.

On November 8, the German edition of Bild wrote that Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines are involved in transporting migrants from Belarus to Germany. Citing sources in the security forces, it claimed that over the past six weeks, more than 6,000 refugees had traveled this route with the participation of Russian and Turkish carriers.

Aeroflot has already reacted to the publication in Bloomberg, denying all accusations and even threatening the publication with a court.

“Information about the participation or assistance of Aeroflot PJSC in organizing the mass transportation of migrants to the territory of the Republic of Belarus does not correspond to reality. Our airline does not operate regular flights to the cities of Iraq and Syria, as well as flights on the Istanbul – Minsk route. Charter flights in these directions are also not operated, ”the press service of the company said.

Aeroflot also reported that the movement of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria through the territory of Russia is difficult, since this requires obtaining a transit Russian visa. Between 01.10 until 10.11.2021 19 passengers traveled from Beirut through Sheremetyevo airport to Minsk. Transit passengers – citizens of Syria and Iraq, traveling to Minsk from other directions, such as Tashkent, Istanbul, Dubai, were not recorded.

It is possible that accusations against Aeroflot may be both political in nature and be part of a competitive struggle and an attempt to put pressure on Russia. The current Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Vitaly Savelyev Until November 2020, he served as director of Aeroflot for almost ten years, so the affairs of this company are very close to him. Some analysts do not even exclude that the decision not to prohibit air travel amid the coronavirus is explained precisely by high-level lobbying. So the reaction to attacks against Aeroflot is likely to follow.

However, even without this, the sanctions against Aeroflot would not have gone unnoticed, since it is the largest not only Russian, but also the world airline, which means that we are talking about a lot of money. In 2020, the group’s fleet transported more than 30 million passengers, about half of them directly by Aeroflot, and the remaining volumes by subsidiaries.

The company’s revenue for the six months of 2021 increased by 30.7% compared to the same period last year, to 195,148 million rubles. The net loss amounted to RUB 27,737 million.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the campaign against Aeroflot was launched shortly after major US air carriers called on the Department of State for “immediate action” in mid-October to secure additional rights to fly in Russian airspace.

The authors of the message warn that without such rights, American air carriers will be forced to use alternative inefficient routes, which will lead to wasted time, unnecessary technical stops and excess CO2 emissions.

After that, there were reports that Russia agreed to increase the number of flights of American air carriers in its airspace. But the US State Department did not specify the number and regularity of these additional flights. They also stressed that “they continue to interact with the Russian authorities on the issue of flights.”

Former Deputy Minister of Civil Aviation of the USSR, Honored Pilot of the USSR Oleg Smirnov called the potential imposition of sanctions against Aeroflot bypassing international organizations “political idiocy” and did not rule out that this could be an element of political or economic pressure.

– To describe this news in one word, it is absurd. All airlines in the world, including Russian, American and European, operate according to the standards laid down by the international civil aviation organizations ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and IATA (International Air Transport Association). Those regulations, which are defined by these organizations, are applied in practice by all companies in the world.

The politicization of this issue does not require a lot of intelligence. It’s just that some politician in the States or the EU decided that Russia and Belarus are one and the same, and they need to be cut with the same brush and punished like that.

But civil aviation interaction is guided by the fundamental laws of economics and regulations that have been developed and adopted by international organizations so that this interaction is mutually beneficial. If the companies conclude a contract for the carriage between themselves, they will certainly fulfill it.

Suppose one company undertakes to take passengers from certain points so that the second company continues the flight from there to the next points. This is the backbone of the world’s transport. Companies may find it inconvenient to fly to some point on the globe, they may not have suitable equipment, and such agreements easily solve these problems. And companies cannot just stop fulfilling agreements on cooperation in transportation simply because someone wanted to.

Aeroflot is one of the most prominent world figures in air transportation, which flies with its equipment to almost all continents. He has agreements with dozens of airlines around the world, and he fulfills all his obligations. And this whole system of economic relations between airlines was attacked by unreasonable politicians. It cannot be called otherwise than political terror.

“SP”: – How much could Aeroflot suffer from potential sanctions?

– First of all, their initiators will suffer, as it always happens when making unprofessional and ill-considered political decisions. Of course, it will also be a serious loss for us if we are forbidden to fly to some cities in the USA and Europe. This is a drop in the volume of flights and traffic, the number and amount of sales.

For any airline in the world, the loss of even one well-occupied and energetically used destination is a big economic disadvantage. There is nothing further to talk about. The more flights, the more the planes are loaded, the more comfortable the airline feels both financially and in terms of development.

But if they impose sanctions, Russia will be forced to respond to this outrage and destruction of the world economic order. And we can very painfully answer both the US and the EU.

First, as a member of ICAO, Russia will turn to this organization, and airlines will turn to IATA with a question about why they ignore their own rules and listen to idiot politicians.

Secondly, we can prohibit the use of our airspace, which is now very actively used by European and American companies. The flight from west to east, for example from Europe to Japan, through the airspace of Russia is several hours less than bypassing. And this is a big additional cost, because every hour in the sky costs a lot of money. And I doubt that these costs will be borne by politicians.

“SP”: – That is, the whole thing can be in the economy? Can such threats be used to put pressure on Moscow to get some preferences and concessions in the sky?

– Of course, it is quite possible. The United States is very interested in our airspace, because they cross it not only from east to west, like the Europeans, but also from north to south. This route runs perpendicular to the Trans-Siberian Railway through the North Pole and the territory of Russia. All this may be lost because of politicians who are so narrow-minded that they do not even imagine that our Earth is round, and the airspace belongs to the country over which it is located. It can only be crossed by aircraft from states that have entered into an agreement with the host country.

If an absurd decision is made to impose sanctions on Aeroflot, which has nothing to do with Belarus, it threatens to break down the entire system of air cooperation. If EU and US politicians believe that Aeroflot is helping Belarus, the first thing they should do, like normal people, is to sit down at the negotiating table and show all their cards.

There are no secrets here. You can raise the global schedule and see where Aeroflot flies, on what planes, at what time, whom it transports, and so on. After that, Europe may ask Aeroflot to reduce the number of flights to certain countries or not carry certain categories of passengers. Our company can agree to this, but ask for similar preferences from the Europeans, because everything should be reciprocal. These are ordinary business negotiations that are held every day between all airlines in the world.

“SP”: – On what basis does Bloomberg generally write about sanctions against Aeroflot?

– I emphasize that all aviation interactions between the states of the world are carried out on the basis of intergovernmental agreements, and not one iota lower. These documents strictly regulate how, where and how much to fly, to whom to sell tickets, and so on. This is a fundamental document, and Russia has hundreds and thousands of such agreements.

Let’s say Aeroflot flies to countries from where refugees arrive at the border with the EU. But if so, he flies there on the basis of agreements signed with the governments of these countries. In order to stop flying there, you need to change this agreement. And to make a military decision to stop flights or even to impose sanctions is political idiocy.

This is a strong word, but how else can you call politicians who, in fact, spit on ICAO, an organization that includes 193 countries of the world? And that means they spit on the leaders of other states? Such decisions should be made only by ICAO and IATA, and not by individual policies that pop up and offer to cancel and destroy all this. This is a very serious precedent, it is difficult to say which step in this area would be worse.

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