Boeing Feels Tensions With Russia As State Carrier Cuts Plane Order

AdobeStock by Nafis Al Sadnan

Russian national airline Aeroflot, in a politically charged move, announced on Thursday that it has cancelled its order for 22 Boeing 787 airliners. The message was delivered by the carrier’s deputy general director for strategy and alliances Giorgio Callegari.

“We have exercised our option to terminate the contract on the 787,” he said at the Paris International Air Show on Thursday.

The airline executive said the decision was based on analysis of “capacity at the Sheremetyevo airport” and the “sustainability of the fleet development – sustainability in terms of the right mix of widebodies and narrowbodies and network development.”

According to Callegari, Aeroflot is “confident that we can meet the original targets” set by the airline’s board “in terms of volumes of passengers, the size of the company and the performance of the company, by shaping our fleet and network in a more attractive way”.

Aeroflot is the largest airline in Russia and had 22 787s on order from the manufacturer. Callegari says Aeroflot did not incur a financial penalty from Boeing for the cancellation and the decision, he added, “was not a one-day process, but taken in due course and discussed with the relevant stakeholders and counterparts.”

Yet the move is the latest in a global tit-for-tat between an increasingly erratic Russia and western countries, who are growing impatient with dictator Vladimir Putin’s communist ambitions.

The country invaded Ukraine in early 2015, earning widespread condemnation from the international community and biting sanction that, along with low oil prices, have wreaked havoc on the Russian economy.

Russia has tried to further distance itself economically, in an ego-driven quest to one-up America. The cancellation of the aircraft order is clearly being used to achieve this goal, although the final outcome remains questionable given the 787 is the most efficient jet is in its class and using planes from rival Airbus will put the Russian flag carrier at a competitive disadvantage.

While there was no official confirmation that the order cancellation was politically motivated, it could also indicate financial pressure on the airline. Aeroflot has one of the worst safety records in the world, accounting for seven of the top 100 deadliest crashes in recent history. Its poor safety record combined with a struggling Russian economy could be another reason for pulling the order.

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