13% of Russian pilots are currently on furlough: Ministry of Transport

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Approximately 13% of all commercial pilots and 5% of cabin crew in Russia are currently furloughed. Russia’s Ministry of Transport estimates that around 70 pilots leave the country to work abroad each month. 

The information was revealed by the Russian Ministry of Transport in a draft comprehensive program for the development of the air transport industry until 2030. The document was obtained by Russian newspaper Kommersant. While its authenticity has not yet been independently confirmed, Kommersant interviewed multiple experts who have all confirmed the credibility of the information reported to be contained in the document.  

Kommersant also states that the data contained in the draft program shows that by 2025 the number of positions for commercial pilots in Russia will be halved due to a number of causes, primarily the shrinking commercial aviation market in the country.  

However, even in these circumstances the Ministry predicts a shortage of pilots and aims to counteract this by ramping up the training of new pilots. Several experts, interviewed by Kommersant, appear to be skeptical about such a development, saying that uncompetitive wages make such expectations unrealistic. 

According to the Program, commercial air traffic is expected to keep shrinking before reaching almost half of its 2021 level by 2025, Kommersant added. After 2025, traffic is expected to rise again. However, Kommersant does not comment on what evidence might support this expected rise.  

Rapid shrinking of Russia’s civil aviation industry began in late February 2022, following Vladimir Putin’s decision to conduct a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As a result of hostilities, the European Union, the United States and several other countries announced the closure of airspace to Russian airlines and Russian-owned aircraft. 

In addition, sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU and the US prohibited companies from leasing their aircraft to Russian airlines. As most commercial aircraft in the Russian fleet were leased from Western companies, they had to be returned to lessors. In March 2022, Putin signed a law allowing Russian airlines to keep the aircraft they were ordered to return, however, this doomed the aircraft to only be used for domestic flights, as any flight abroad would make them vulnerable to be arrested.  

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