Low-Cost Carrier Dobrolet Grounded After EU Imposes Sanctions on Russia

Moscow Threatens to Restrict Airspace in Retaliation

By Jesse Sokolow on 5 August 2014
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An Aeroflot plane in New York

An Aeroflot plane in New York

Aeroflot, the national flag carrier of Russia, announced Sunday that it was shutting down Dobrolet, a low-cost subsidiary of the airline, due to sanctions imposed upon Russia by the European Union on July 30.  Dobrolet began flying in May of this year.

The European sanctions were in response to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Until last week, Dobrolet had been the sole operator of flights between Moscow and Simferopol, a city in the south-central region of the Crimean Peninsula, since the March annexation of the area.  The European Union issued a statement, saying that the route’s exclusivity “facilitates the integration of the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation and undermines Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Aeroflot said that European companies had “annulled aircraft insurance agreements, stopped providing aeronautical information and have refused to fulfil leasing, repair and maintenance agreements.”  As a result of these actions, Aeroflot, a member of the Skyteam Alliance, said it had been forced to shut Dobrolet down.

Aeroflot said that Orenburg Air, another Russian carrier, would operate Dobrolet flights to Simferopol until August 20, and to Volgograd until mid-September.

Meanwhile, Russia is considering imposing restrictions of its own, on flights operated by European airlines traveling through Russian airspace.  Currently, Aeroflot receives over-flight fees from European carriers that fly along the trans-Siberian route, the shortest path from Europe to Asia.  A source close to Aeroflot’s board of directors told Russian newspaper Vedomosti that the airline receives around $300 million annually in the over-flight fees.

Another source, who works with major European airlines, told the newspaper that three of the carriers who most utilize the trans-Siberian route – Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France – have estimated that should Russia follow through on its threats, the airlines could lose more than one billion euros a year.  However, these reports have yet to be confirmed.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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