The Colombo Commercial High Court has suspended a previous order that prevented an Airbus A330 aircraft operated by Russian national carrier Aeroflot from leaving Sri Lanka. The aircraft was leased to Aeroflot by Irish Celestial Aviation Trading.  

Hundreds of Sri Lankan citizens gathered peacefully in front of the Russian Embassy in Colombo on June 6, 2022, demanding the government take urgent action to release the detained aircraft.  

Taking the protest into account, the Court decided to suspend the initial detention order, meaning that the aircraft is no longer unable to leave Sri Lanka, according to La Prensa Latina.  

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The plane, which holds the double registration VQ-BMY and RA-73702, was seized by local aviation authorities at Colombo Airport (CMB) on June 2, 2022, as international sanctions continued to disturb Russia’s aviation industry. The Aeroflot Airbus A330-343 wide-body jet had initially been banned from leaving the island until at least June 16, 2022.   

The plane was supposed to turn around for a flight SU 289 back to Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) in Russia on the same day it was detained, but the flight was delayed and later canceled.  

According to a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on June 4, 2022, the 10.2-year-old plane was “immediately restrained” from leaving CMB airport.   

“On 2 June 2022, the Commercial High Court of the Western Province issued an Enjoining Order on the Aeroflot flight restraining it from taking off from Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB),” the Ministry explained.   

“The case relates to a commercial dispute between the Plaintiff, Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited, an Irish Company, against the first Defendant the Public Joint Stock Company "Aeroflot" and the second Defendant, Mr. N. C Abeywardene/Acting Head of Air Navigation/Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka (AASL), Katunayake,” the statement continued.   

All passengers were offered hotel accommodation.  

In response, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot suspended commercial passenger flights and ticket sales to Colombo, citing “the uncertainty about unimpeded airline flights to Sri Lanka,” according to Russian news agency Interfax.  

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As part of Western sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Irish lessor and the parent company of Celestial Aviation Trading 10, AerCap, became one of worst affected aircraft leasing companies and was forced to suspend multiple leasing contracts with Russian airlines, including Aeroflot.   

While contract suspension would usually result in repossession, Russia’s aviation authority advised the country’s carriers to re-register planes leased from foreign lessors to its own registry. As a result, Aeroflot’s Airbus A330-343 currently holds dual registration.    

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