Some Russian airlines are weighing setting up Turkish-based carriers to get around the sanctions that have prevented them from leasing aircraft and accessing maintenance and repair facilities following the invasion of Ukraine.
Pegas Touristik, which owns Nordwind Airlines, and Anex Tourism Group, which operates Azur Air, are considering basing new airlines in Turkey and have had discussions with leasing companies about getting planes, according to people familiar with the matter.
Unlike state-owned Aeroflot PJSC, which flew to some 56 countries before the invasion of Ukraine, Azur Air and Nordwind mainly ferry Russian holiday-goers to tourist destinations.
While based in Russia, both are part of larger tour companies controlled by Turkish businessmen. The carriers haven’t been individually sanctioned, so the moves wouldn’t violate the rules, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private matters.
European Union sanctions forced leasing companies, mainly based in Ireland, to terminate leases on planes to airlines in Russia and barred the carriers from flying in European airspace.
The airlines in turn have refused to return planes to lessors after the Russian government, determined to maintain the country’s air links, forced them to seek permission before handing back aircraft.
Anex may base a new unit in Antalya, the main hub for Turkey’s southern coast, with a fleet of Boeing Co. narrow- and wide-body jets, one of the people said.
The group is in discussions with several lessors including Dubai Aerospace Enterprise and Aviation Capital Group, as well as AerCap Holdings and Boeing Capital Corp., according to that person.
Representatives for Azur Air and Nordwind didn’t respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment.
The Turkish office of Anex didn’t respond to an email, while an Anex official in Moscow said the Russian office couldn’t comment on the actions of the parent company. Pegas wasn’t immediately available to comment.
DAE, Boeing and AerCap declined to comment. Aviation Capital Group didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
Pegas may launch an airline called Southwind, the people said, adding that the new carriers could be up and running this summer.
Anex is also considering using an existing carrier’s license to start operations, and has been in discussions with charter airline Tailwind, one of the people said. Pegas is also considering Armenia as a location to base a new airline, a person said.
Before the Russian invasion, Azur Air had a fleet of 34 Boeing planes, according to data from tracking website planespotters.net. Nordwind had 28 planes, including Airbus SE and Boeing jets.