S7, Russia’s second-largest airline, has stopped all flights on their Airbus A321neo aircraft.
The airline claims that the jets are being prepared for the summer season, though Russian social media channels suggest the grounding is a result of engine problems.
According to Planespotters, S7 owns eight A321neos, seven of them currently operational. Flightradar data shows that all of them stopped performing flights by January 16, 2023, in some cases even earlier.
Aviation-focused Russian Telegram channel FrequentFlyers was the first to spot this trend. According to the channel’s post, the A321neos were replaced on the airline’s routes with A321ceos and A320neos.
The channel claims S7 is experiencing problems with Pratt & Whitney engines mounted on the aircraft, arguing that other Russian airlines which operate A321neos with CFM engines did not ground their fleets.
S7 responded to the allegations on the evening of January 26, saying that the aircraft in question are not grounded but are in fact being prepared for the next season.
Russian state news service TASS has quoted a spokesperson for S7 Airlines as saying: “Traditionally, during the winter season, a part of our aircraft fleet undergoes planned maintenance to prepare them for the summer season. Fewer routes require aircraft with large passenger capacity due to seasonal drop in demand.”
Along with other Russian airlines, S7 is a subject of export sanctions from the US and the EU. Airbus aircraft, operated by the airline, are not supported by the manufacturer since the sanctions were announced in the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
S7 received their A321neos between 2017 and 2021. All the aircraft were leased, and the airline did not return them to lessors as recommended by the Russian government.
The jets were reregister in Russia in April 2022. Since then some Russian airlines, including S7, ‘legalized’ the commandeered aircraft by officially buying them from the lessors. However, it is unclear if the A321neos in question have been purchased in this way.