Airbus’ Goals To Increase Russian Market Share

Following Simple Flying’s visit to Moscow last month, it was evident that Airbus has a strong presence in Russia. Amid the considerable transformations occurring in the Russian aviation industry, we caught up with Julien Franiatte, Head of Airbus Russia, about his company’s developments.

Aeroflot A350
Airbus is determined to increase its market share against the likes of Boeing. Photo: Aeroflot

Three decades in the making

Franiatte shares that his company’s long record of successful cooperation with Russia dates back to 1991. This was when the A310 widebody obtained its Russian type certification to become the first Western aircraft to reach this major milestone.

Four years later, Airbus opened its Russian office in Moscow, and Franiatte adds that today, Airbus and Russia have an extensive, mutually beneficial relationship. Russia is among the manufacturer’s largest international supply bases, involved in Research and Technology, material sourcing, engineering, and components supply.

One of the key factors involved with the long-term relationship is titanium. This element is crucial in the production of aircraft across the continents, and half of Airbus’ supply comes from Russia. The nation is one of the largest producers of the metal worldwide, with more than 40,000 metric tons of titanium sponge produced yearly.

The Airbus Engineering Centre, popularly known as ECAR, was formed in Moscow in 2003. This program was part of a joint venture between the company and the Kaskol industrial group. Throughout the years, the site has finished over 120 projects, including tasks related to the A350, A321XLR, and A330neo.

Airbus was showing off its builds at MAKS-2021 last month. Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

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Plenty of potential

Airbus understands the requirements needed for the evolving market in Russia and its neighbors. In 2018, the carrier highlighted that Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will need over 1,200 planes valued at $175 billion over the following 20 years. Therefore, passenger fleets will nearly double from 867 units before the turn of the decade to 1,700 by 2037.

Altogether, over the next two decades, passenger traffic in the region will grow at an average rate of 4.1% per year. Notably, Russia will be the major contributor to this progress.

Airbus expects the region’s highest traffic growth to be on international routes to Latin America (+5.9%), Asia-Pacific (+5.4%), Middle East (+5.1 %). North America is set to be the next highest growth market with a 4.5% increase.

Aeroflot A350
Aeroflot has taken on six Airbus A350s since February 2020. Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying

An important stakeholder

The pandemic has undoubtedly shaken things up, with long-haul routes rocked across the globe. Nonetheless, Russian domestic services bounced back strongly. With 2019 passenger levels generally expected to return between 2023 and 2025, the demand for new aircraft will still be there in the years to come.

“Airbus cooperation with Russia has helped grow the local aerospace sector, creating and supporting more than 1,500 jobs, with activities worth some $300 million annually (pre-COVID level),” Franiatte told Simple Flying.

“From a commercial point of view, at present, we enjoy 52% market share (Airbus vs. Boeing, aircraft in operation) with more than 340 Airbus aircraft in operation in Russia in the fleet of 10 operators and VIP services. Our plan is to increase this share.”

Airbus is still keen on working closely with Russian entities in the next chapter of aviation. Sustainability will be a focal point for the market going forward, and the company has united with major stakeholders to ensure that the industry meets critical goals in this field. For instance, the firm hosted a panel with the likes of Gazpromneft-Aero at the MAKS-2021 airshow in Moscow Oblast last year.

Gazpromneft-Aero is breaking ground with its innovations, such as Smart Fuel. Photo: Gazpromneft

Into the next generation

Ultimately, Airbus is eager to overcome notable difficulties for airlines to operate with more sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These fuels will play a key role in aviation while Airbus continues to research hydrogen-electric solutions. Moreover, they will remain important in the decades to come.

“With SAF, the main challenge remains the emergence of a market to generalize the use of SAF. There is still a lot of work to do to encourage its uptake, which represents 0.03% of fuel use and less than 1% of operated flights (2020). Incentives and long-term policies that encourage SAF use will be essential in this respect. The major challenge in Russia will be certification,” Franiatte added.

“Here, if you blend standard kerosine with SAF, this is no longer considered a proper fuel for an aircraft and needs additional certification. To meet this challenge, Airbus gathered key industry stakeholders during the panel discussion ‘Decarbonisation,’ which took place in Russia during the MAKS aerospace show to discuss what solutions the industry already has and how we can make these solutions available throughout the entire aviation supply chain.”

The broader scene

We largely concentrate on civilian aircraft here at Simple Flying. However, Airbus’ presence in Russia spreads far wider. This can be seen in the helicopter sector, where more than 230 Airbus-built rotorcraft were in service in the country at the beginning of last year. The firm holds a 48% market share and also supplies around half of the nation’s VIP and corporate helicopters.

Helicopter Airbus
Airbus is covering all angles. Photo: Airbus

Even when it comes to space, Airbus holds an important position. Collaboration here traces back to the middle of the 1990s. One of the recent primary initiatives was the launch of power amplifier productions by the Synertech joint venture of Airbus and Russian Space Systems in 2016. Overall, this JV was created to deliver reliable satellite equipment for Russian civil space projects.

Russia’s aviation industry recently shared its ambitions of Russifying the country’s domestic fleet by the time the 2030s roll around. In contrast, Airbus is also increasing its presence amid the announcement of new aircraft joining the nation’s airlines this decade. Nonetheless, with several medium and long-haul opportunities on the horizon to neighboring and distant destinations, Airbus will maintain a strong position in Russia.

What are your thoughts about Airbus’ presence in Russia? What do you make of the overall scene? Let us know what you think of the manufacturer’s operations in the comment section.