Losses of 15 million, saving on everything and introduction of a 4-day work schedule: how did sanctions and the war affect Belarus’ main airport?

3 mins

На русском языке: Убытки на 15 млн, экономия на всём и переход на 4-дневку: как санкции и война отразились на главном аэропорту Беларуси?
На беларускай мове: Страты на 15 млн, эканомія на ўсім і пераход на 4-дзёнку: як санкцыі і вайна адбіліся на галоўным аэрапорце Беларусі?

Recently we wrote about Belavia airline’s problems with getting a Boeing 737 MAX 8, and today we decided to continue the aviation topic and find out how Minsk National Airport (MSQ) is doing, which was first affected by most airlines’ refusal to fly to Belarus after the forced landing of the Ryanair aircraft, and then by the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

How did the country's main airport turn into a debtor?

First of all, on May 23, 2021, the Ryanair aircraft with Raman Pratasevich on board was forcibly landed in Belarus in order to arrest the dissident journalist. After that, the entire aviation industry of the country began to have serious problems: Belarusian aircraft lost opportunity to fly to airports and fly over the territory of the European Union, and European carriers began to fly around the airspace of Belarus, which automatically deprived the airport of most of its income.

In addition to this, MSQ was excluded from a number of organizations, for example, from the Airports Council International (ACI), and specialized companies and services refused to provide services to the airport. Thus MSQ was disconnected from the international system SITA, and the French group of companies TLD, which supplied the airport with most of the support equipment: tractors, track loaders, gangways, etc., stopped working with it.

And since May 1, 2022, the airport even switched to a four-day work schedule and was forced to introduce downtime for shift workers, which MSQ Director General Viacheslav Khoroneko publicly announced only in early July.

MSQ after February 24: flight cancellations, losses and debts

The situation reached the point when after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, regular flights to the airport were operated only by three airlines: Belavia, Aeroflot and Uzbek Airlines.

According to our information, the net loss of the airport only for the first half of 2022 was about 15,000,000 BYN. At the moment, MSQ does not have enough money even for basic functioning, as it needs at least 8 million BYN monthly for current expenses, and they receive only 6 million. In addition, because of the start of the war in Ukraine, the airport has lost about 1,350 regular flights.

We should also mention the termination of flights to MSQ by cargo airlines, which also made a significant contribution to the airport budget. For example, UPS, Air China Cargo and Turkish Cargo stopped flying to Belarus (they sometimes arrive for refueling). To date, only two Belarusian cargo carriers based at MSQ continue to use the airport: Rubystar Airways and TransAviaExport.

Now the company has introduced a strict regime of fuel and material savings, all bonuses are suspended, all current repairs at the airport facilities are suspended, it even got to the point that they save on communication services.

The only positive thing that at least slightly increased the income of the airport was the temporary resumption of Minsk-Tbilisi flights by Georgian Airways (it operated until March 25), the resumption of Air China flights to Beijing, and the launch of flights by low-cost airline Pobeda from St. Petersburg to Minsk. It is also planned to launch flights by the Iranian airline Mahan Air. However, according to sources, it didn’t help much to improve the situation, as rumors about the introduction of a three-day work schedule and the dismissal of about 200 more people are now actively spread at the airport.

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