Turkey’s Southwind Airlines banned from operating 737 MAX into Russia: report

Southwind Airlines Boeing 737 MAX were reportedly banned from flying into Russia
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Turkey-based Southwind Airlines has been prohibited from flying its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into Russia. 

According to the Russian daily Izvestia, United States (US) authorities blocked the airline from flying its Boeing 737 MAX-8 aircraft into the country, citing two sources familiar with the matter. Since the ban, the Turkish airline sought capacity from other Russian airlines to transport passengers between the two countries. 

Southwind Airlines was established in 2022, shortly after Russia launched it invasion of Ukraine. According to planespotters.net data, only one of the airline’s eight aircraft, an Airbus A321 currently registered as TC-GRD, was not previously operated by a Russian airline. Two additional aircraft are scheduled to join the carrier’s fleet, an Airbus A321, currently registered as VQ-BOD (previously at Nordwind Airlines), and a Boeing 737 MAX-8, currently registered as VQ-BGW (ex-S7 Airlines). 

Izvestia also reported that former Nordwind Airlines crews are flying Southwind Airlines aircraft.  

According to the Russian daily, while the US cannot directly ban the airline from operating the 737 MAX between Turkey and Russia, a source close to the matter said that the US authorities either threatened sanctions against Southwind Airlines or added its 737 MAXs to the sanctioned asset list. 

Southwind Airlines or any of its aircraft are currently not included on the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list.  

However, out of the four 737 MAX-8 Southwind Airlines currently has listed in its fleet, one, registered as TC-GRM, has not flown in the past three months. Another, registered as TC-GRK, has not flown since April 2023. Interestingly, the aircraft was on its delivery flight from Boeing Field/King County International Airport (BFI), with the aircraft landing at Keflavik International Airport (KEF), Iceland, for a typical fuel stop on delivery to Turkey. It has been stuck at KEF since April 13, 2023. 

Another Southwind Airlines Boeing 737 MAX-8, registered as TC-GRO, made the same journey, continuing from KEF to Antalya Airport (AYT) in March 2023, flightradar24.com records showed. That aircraft was last seen in Russia on June 2, 2023, when it operated a flight from Novosibirsk Tolmachevo Airport (OVB) to AYT. It has not returned to the country since. 

The carrier’s last 737 MAX-8, TC-GRJ, has not flown to or from Russia since June 2, 2023, when it left Ufa International Airport (UFA).  

Since then, Southwind Airlines has been using its Airbus A321neo, registered as TC-GRE, as well as an A321, registered as TC-GRD, to fly between Turkey and Russia. Its wide-body aircraft, a pair of Airbus A330-200s and one Boeing 777-300ER, have also been absent from routes to the aggressor country. 

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