Ireland Is Talking With Aircraft Lessors About Belarus Sanctions

Irish-based leasing companies are coming under pressure over the alleged use of aircraft for the illegal movement of people into Belarus. Amidst growing problems at the EU border, Ireland has recently briefed leasing companies about possible future sanctions. This could be significant for aviation in the country, with a large part of Belavia’s fleet leased this way.

Belavia
Belavia leases almost half of its fleet from Irish companies. Photo: Belavia

Possible sanctions against Belarus

The situation on the Belarus borders with the EU has been worsening recently. Both Poland and Lithuania have declared states of emergency as the number of migrants at borders has risen. The countries are accusing the Belarus government of supporting migration from the Middle East and Africa into Europe through Belarus. They have already called for sanctions against national airline Belavia over its role in this.

Now, the Irish government is getting involved. It has held discussions with Ireland-based aircraft leasing companies about any potential sanctions against the country. It said in a statement:

“At the invitation of the Department of Transport, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs participated in an online meeting with representatives of a number of aircraft-leasing companies on 27 October. Officials explained the background to proposed new sanctions on Belarus and answered questions.”

No sanctions, though, have yet been imposed, and it is not clear what would be. As discussed in reporting by The Guardian, any action against existing contracts is unlikely. It is more likely that sanctions would affect any future leasing agreements or extensions.

Belavia Belarusian Airlines Embraer 190 taxiing at Milan
Belavia will suffer under leasing sanctions. Photo: Getty Images

Leasing aircraft from Ireland

Belavia is the national airline for Belarus and the largest carrier operating into Minsk. According to data from ch-aviaiton.com, it has a fleet of 33 aircraft, with 24 of these currently active.

However, 20 of these aircraft are leased. The majority of these are from Ireland-based leasing companies, with some others from US-based companies. The Irish leasing companies include:

  • AerCap. Belavia leases three Boeing 737s and three Embraer ERJ190 aircraft.
  • SMBC Aviation Capital Limited. It leases just one 737-800 aircraft.
  • Thunderbolt Aircraft Lease Limited. It also leases one 737-800.
  • Nordic Aviation Capital (this is a Denmark-based company but headquartered in Ireland). It leases four ERJ 170 and three ERJ 190 aircraft.
Belavia ERJ 170
Belavia operates 15 ERJ 170 and ERJ 190 aircraft. It leases 10 of these from Irish companies. Photo: Belavia

Not a great year for Belarus aviation

These discussions and possible sanctions come after a difficult year for Belarus aviation. As well as dealing with the ongoing pandemic, it has already faced isolation and bans from several countries this year.

In May, the Government of Belarus caused a diplomatic storm when it diverted a Ryanair flight to Minsk and seized a dissident journalist. Soon after, the United States banned the sale of tickets between the US and Belarus. Several European airlines stopped services to Belarus or avoided overflying the country. And the CAA suspended Belavia’s operating permit in the UK.

The row over immigration and the borders, and potential sanctions, will only make the situation worse for Belavia.

What do you think of the ongoing problems in Belarus? Is restricting leasing activity a sensible reaction to deal with this? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 

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