How Aviation Fuel Supplies Continued Throughout The Pandemic

Despite the challenges presented by COVID, aviation fuel suppliers had no option but to continue to work through the crisis. Today, Dmitry Korpachev, Head of International Sales at Gazpromneft-Aero, recalled how the company maintained its regular output while still keeping everyone safe.

Fuel supply companies had to work throughout the pandemic. Photo: Gazpromneft-Aero

Business as usual

COVID-19 has brought much of the world to a standstill, but not every business has the luxury of just being able to stop for a while. Aviation fuel companies, for example, could not just down tools and pause while things were worked out. Although passenger aviation took a hit, cargo flights have become more important than ever.

Leading Russian aviation fuel supplier Gazpromneft-Aero did not stop work for a second. Right thought 2020, it continued business as usual. Notably, the number of cargo flights it refueled abroad increased 124% year on year between 2019 and 2020, many of which were flights carrying the important Sputnik V vaccine to countries all over the world.

Speaking at a media event today, Dmitry Korpachev, Head of International Sales at Gazpromneft-Aero, noted how important maintaining the health of the employees had been.

“The priority for the last 12 months in our company was the safety of the employees, and their health. That was really a very important strategical direction that we were very happy with. We also paid tremendous attention to the support of our partners and airlines.”

The company prioritized the health of its employees to get it through the crisis. Photo: Gazpromneft-Aero

As a result of the company’s people-first approach, Gazpromneft-Aero continued to work nonstop throughout the pandemic. None of its facilities were paused, with activity continuing just as regularly as it had pre-pandemic. Despite continuing with business as usual, Gazpromneft-Aero took all the necessary precautions to ensure nobody was put at risk, and as such, the company has suffered no casualties.

Despite coming into contact with some 150,000 flights from 260 airlines, Gazpromneft-Aero’s employees stayed safe. Korpachev noted that this was achieved through a combination of regular PCR and antibody tests, daily medical checks, mandatory use of PPE and regular disinfection of refueling trucks.

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Taking the smart approach

As well as ensuring that Gazpromneft-Aero could maintain its supplies of aviation fuel safely, the company has also pressed ahead with its next generation of fuel payment technology. Based on blockchain technology, Smart Fuel allows instant payment for aviation fuel, removing the need for pre-payment, which can be a heavy burden for already financially encumbered airlines.

Smart Fuel lets airlines fill up without pre-paying for their supply. Photo: Gazpromneft-Aero

Over the course of 2020, Gazpromneft-Aero began fueling two Russian airlines using Smart Fuel payments. Both Smartavia and Utair used the technology at three different airports, proving its reliability in a real-world situation. With this under their belt, Gazpromneft-Aero is keen to advance the rollout of this technology to more airlines and airports over the coming year.

While paying via the internet is convenient for both airlines and airports, there’s another key consideration in the current environment that makes this an attractive proposition. Korpachev explained,

“An aspect that is very important nowadays is the representatives of the airline and the representative of the fuelling company don’t need to come into contact. They don’t even have to see each other … they don’t need to be afraid of COVID-19. This is also a great impact of our company into making the aviation refueler business safer.”

Airlines can refuel without coming into contact with the fueling company. Photo: Gazpromneft-Aero

Korpachev described the process as being as simple as buying bread in a shop. No invoices are needed; there is no lengthy wait for monies to clear; airlines can simply fuel up and pay on the go. It’s almost a no-brainer.

While the expansion of Smart Fuel is likely to be limited to Russia in the short-term future, Gazpromneft-Aero has high hopes that its airline and airport partners in Europe, China, Asia and other locations will be keen to adopt this next-generation system.