Russia’s largest aviation conglomerate, the Volga-Dnepr consortium, is laying off almost all of its Boeing pilots. Affected are more than 200 cockpit personnel flying the Boeing 747-400F and B747-8F versions operated by Volga-Dnepr’s line-haul arm, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), reports local paper, Vedomosti. The flight crews of Volga-Dnepr’s regional freight subsidiary, ATRAN Airlines, which also operates Boeing 737-400F and B737-800 BCF aircraft, are suffering the same fate.
Alarm bells are ringing at ABC and ATRAN. Both carriers will lose most of their cockpit personnel due to the lack of business prospects for the two airlines. Management has now terminated almost
all working contracts with those pilots licensed to fly the Boeing aircraft belonging to the two carriers’ fleets. This is reported by the daily newspaper, Vedomosti, with reference to
confidential sources close to the Volga-Dnepr Group.
More than 200 pilots will be laid off
If that is the case, ABC and ATRAN become victims of Putin's war against Ukraine which has led to harsh sanctions imposed by the EU, USA, Japan, and other countries, including the closure of their skies for Russian-operated aircraft.
In total, more than 200 pilots flying Boeing jets operated by ABC or ATRAN are affected. The conglomerate doesn’t disclose exact figures.
Prior to Russia’s Ukraine invasion, an estimated 300 Captains and First Officers stood on ABC’s payroll, and more than 110 pilots flew leased B737-400F or B737-8 BCF belonging to its sister company, ATRAN Airlines.
A healthy company is politically ruined
In mid-March, Volga-Dnepr's press service reported that AirBridgeCargo and ATRAN had suspended flights due to sanction threats against lessors, who were prohibited from collaborating with Russian aviation companies. At the same time, Bermuda’s Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) announced that the airworthiness certificates of freighters registered in the Caribbean state and leased by ABC had been terminated. In reaction, Moscow’s aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya, issued own licenses for leased Western aircraft, voluntarily breaching international law.
The exodus nears
At the end of July, most ABC and ATRAN Boeing pilots received notification of imminent staff reductions, including plans to sharply scale down the number of flight personnel. However, some pilots will be kept on by the two airlines, in order to return the sanctioned Boeing freighters to their lessors, provided Moscow’s Transport Ministry consents the step. The Volga-Dnepr Group had offered to return 14 of the 16 leased B747-freighters to their rightful owners, most of them sidelined at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport since months.
The same happened recently to the European staff working for ABC or ATRAN, with the management informing them to seek jobs outside the Volga-Dnepr Group.
Sanctions doom Volga-Dnepr Group
One thing is certain: the longer Russia's war against Ukraine lasts, the lower the chances for ABC and ATRAN of reactivating their former business models and reviving the air bridging of continents. And whether Volga-Dnepr’s charter business, operated with AN-124 and Ilyushin freighters, has a realistic future, remains to be seen.
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