Volga-Dnepr Group will cut more than 200 pilots flying Boeing aircraft for its AirBridgeCargo (RU, Ulyanovsk Vostochny) and Atran (V8, Moscow Vnukovo) airlines, the Russian news agency RBK reported citing two anonymous sources at the company. Il-76s and Il-96s are being considered as alternatives to keep the carriers in business.

The losses represent almost all of the remaining pilots at the two airlines which specialise in Boeing operations. One source said the pilots received notices about the job cuts at the end of July. Several crews have been saved in case the group receives permission from the Ministry of Transport to return the aircraft to foreign lessors, the second source added.

One month ago, it became known that AirBridge Cargo had asked the ministry to return fourteen of its B747 freighters currently parked at Moscow Sheremetyevo to their lessors. It operates a fleet of sixteen aircraft, all of them Boeing, and all are currently inactive, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module. Likewise, Atran operates only B737s, nine of them, all currently inactive.

Another affiliate, Volga-Dnepr Airlines (VI, Ulyanovsk Vostochny), by contrast operates only Antonov Design Bureau and Ilyushin Design Bureau equipment namely five Il-76TD-90VDs, ten An-124-100s and one An-124-100-150. Only seven of these sixteen aircraft are currently active.

“The company’s resources are not unlimited. Optimising the staff numbers is a necessary measure and is being carried out in stages in order to be able to mothball the fleet,” a Volga-Dnepr representative told RBK confirming the job cuts.

The company has not disclosed the total number of pilots affected, but according to the news agency’s sources, more than 300 pilots were working for AirBridge Cargo at the start of this year, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and about 110 for Atran.

According to Russia’s civil aviation regulator (Rosaviatsiya), Volga-Dnepr Group occupied around 51% of the Russian air cargo market in January-February 2022. The regulator has not published statistical data since the start of the war. A number of pilots began to leave the group from the start of the spring, some of their own free will, others by agreement with their employer, the sources said.