The sanctions imposed on Russia are supposed to put pressure on Vladimir Putin, but one measure will also have a surprising impact on Aussies.
The sanctions against the aviation industry in Russia are aimed at putting pressure on Vladimir Putin, but they are also set to have an unexpected impact on Australians.
As Russia’s invasion in Ukraine becomes increasingly brutal, countries are introducing harsher sanctions, including banning Russian aircraft from the airspace above the European Union, United Kingdom and Canada.
This type of action does not obviously impact Australia but one expert has highlighted the surprising way Aussies will also suffer.
Air transport and supply chain expert Professor Rico Merkert of Sydney University said the focus has been on the impact to passenger flights, but sanctions are also likely to hit the freight and cargo network.
He said Russian airlines such as Volga-Dnepr, which runs a fleet of massive cargo plans to transport large and heavyweight goods around the world, will also be unable to fly in European airspace. Their planes include the Antonov An-124 — the largest military transport aircraft in service — and are often hired by Western companies, including a lot of manufacturing companies. They are big enough to transport helicopters.
On top of this, the reduction in airflight in general due to the bans means there will be less cargo space on passenger flights to transport items.
“This means it will have a massive impact on capacity, so freight rates — which are already elevated — will probably go up even more,” Prof Merkert said.
“Anyone who wants to ship freight will feel this, not just those who want to fly to Europe.
“We’ll probably feel the freight impact first.”
The lack of Volga-Dnepr aircraft will mostly impact larger items, as smaller e-commerce transactions for online shopping are generally transported by FedEx, UPS and DHL, although there could be some flow-on effects.
“It will likely become more expensive and take a little longer if you order from overseas,” Prof Merkert said.
Higher prices for jet fuel due to skyrocketing oil prices will also drive up costs for all shipping.
The fuel cost impacts not just the planes, but also the trucks servicing the aircraft for refuelling and maintenance.
“There are hundreds and thousands of those trucks,” Prof Merkert said.
Fuel prices will also hit Australians flying to Europe as they are facing longer flight times.
Some routes have had to be changed to avoid flying over Ukraine and Russia, and Prof
Merkert said this could add one hour to the flight time for those travelling between Darwin and London, for example.
“While I think passengers will be happy with that — I’m not sure anyone wants to fly through Ukraine — it still adds a bit more cost and carbon footprint to the flight,” he said.
Prof Merkert said airlines may have to raise fares at some point to cover the increasing cost of jet fuel.
The airline sector was one of the first to be affected by the economic fallout from the Ukrainian conflict.
“We are shutting down EU airspace for Russian-owned, Russian-registered or Russian-controlled aircraft,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen announced in February.
In response, Russia itself banned airlines from the EU, UK and Canada travelling across its territory too.
The EU and Canada have also banned the export of aircraft, parts and equipment from the aviation and space industries to Russia.
Prof Merkert said not being able to get spare parts from companies like Boeing will impact planes that need to undergo maintenance, repair or overhauling.
“If sanctions are in place for a while, it’s not just the cost to airlines, it’s keeping them operational that will be put under question here.
“If they can’t maintain the aircraft, even domestic services within Russia may be impacted by this.”
He said this could begin impacting aircraft within a month.
“They would be needing to think now, to plan and schedule, and could feel the pain coming soon.”