Not yet landed. Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group between sky and ground
Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Volga-Dnepr Group was planning a huge expansion in the European market. Now, the Russian holding of cargo airlines is under the sanctions of the Western countries. Instead of development, it is looking for means of survival.
Volga-Dnepr Group is known as one of the biggest cargo air carriers in Russia. It occupies almost half of the air cargo market in the country. In 2021, its share reached 49 per cent. AirBridgeCargo carried 639,000 tonnes of goods, Atran – 58,800 tonnes, and the head company Volga-Dnepr – 26,800 tonnes. But things drastically changed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022. Today Volga-Dnepr is the only airline from the eponymous holding that still operates at least part of its fleet.
In addition to the three mentioned companies, the group includes a management company, an insurance company, a car delivery company, aircraft repair companies, etc. It is also related to CargoLogic Germany and CargoLogicAir (Great Britain), whose beneficiary Alexey Isaikin is also the founder of Volga-Dnepr. On 10 March, aviation regulators in the UK and Germany banned the operations of the last two due to Isaikin’s Russian citizenship.
As for group companies, AirBridgeCargo and Atran ceased flights two weeks after the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war. All 18 Boeing 747 and six Boeing 737 aeroplanes they have been leasing were landed due to sanctions and a decision by Bermuda’s Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) to terminate their safety certificates. In particular, sanctions have cut off the supply of most aircraft and parts to Russia.
Volga-Dnepr company’s fleet consists of five Ilyushin Il-76 and 12 Antonov An-124. All 17 aircraft are registered in the Russian aviation register and are owned by the group. But one of the Volga-Dnepr’ An-124 was arrested in Canada on 12 March. The heavy-lift aircraft previously delivered Covid-19 tests to Toronto and after that was stopped in the Lester B. Pearson airport due to anti-Russian sanctions. Also, three company’s An-124 are stuck in Germany for the same reason. All of them can be potentially claimed by Ukraine as compensation for the damage caused to the country’s aviation industry during the Russian invasion.
Some markets not been lost
In March, some European media reported Volga-Dnepr completely landed all its fleet because of sanctions. We have checked this information and found out that part of the company’s aircraft still has been operating.
According to Flightradar24’s data, the Volga-Dnepr An-124 aircraft were flying inside Russia and abroad, particularly from Russia to Dubai (UAE), Ulaanbataar (Mongolia), Chennai (India), Johor Bahru (Malaysia) in late March. The Ilyushin Il-76 flying machines are operated on domestic and international flights to Seoul (Korea) and Brno (Czechia). It is clear that the Asian market has not been lost for the Russian company yet while the VDA5974 flight from Moscow to Brno performed on 31 March through the Polish airspace (according to Flightradar24’s data) needs explanation.
However, only two Il-76 and three An-124 owned by Volga-Dnepr have not been parked at the moment.