Russia may be left without international flights due to disconnection from “aviation SWIFT”

Russian and foreign air carriers may face problems with flights between Russia and other countries in the fall of 2023.

The difficulties may arise after Russia disconnects from telecommunication channels owned by the global provider of services for civil aviation – the Swiss company Societe Internationale de Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA), three sources in Russian and foreign airlines told RBC.

The SITA channel is called the aviation analog of the SWIFT interbank system. It is the most widespread tool in the world civil aviation for the exchange of information between airlines and airports. The system is used by more than 2.5 thousand customers in 200 countries, and its technologies are used on 90% of all international flights.

“Due to the shutdown scheduled for the end of September, Russian carriers will no longer be able to transmit flight, passenger and baggage data to the information systems of international airports via SITA gateways”, one of the sources explained.

In turn, foreign carriers will be left without the usual channel for data exchange with the information systems of Russian airports. “There is a problem, it is sensitive and certainly requires a solution”, confirmed the interlocutor in a foreign airline.

The Ministry of Transport said that they are aware of the problem and are going to organize for carriers the exchange of information between the Russian and international networks, as well as alternative communication channels.

SITA decided to shut down its operations in Russia because of the war in Ukraine. Most of SITA’s services were shut down in the country during 2022.

Representatives of Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Pulkovo, Kazan and Airports of Regions Holding (which manages airports in Yekaterinburg, Samara, etc.) said that they were ready to work with any airlines and use their own direct communication channels for this purpose.

Russian airlines will calmly adapt to the new channels, but foreign airports and air carriers will have to adjust to the proposed Russian alternative technologies, says Oleg Panteleyev, Executive Director of AviaPort.

At the same time, there are flight destinations that require increased attention, such as China, the sources said. “While there is still some understanding of the issue of finding a solution to the problem of information transfer between Russian airlines and Chinese border authorities, there is no understanding of how to solve the problem of information transfer between the inventory systems (which store flight schedules and seat availability. – TMT) of Russian airlines and foreign airports”, the interlocutor explains.

The situation with flights to China after the SITA shutdown is the most complicated, as confirmed by Sirena-Travel, a company that develops ticket booking systems for airlines.

The Ministry of Transport promised to resolve the issue of air traffic with China at a face-to-face meeting with the country’s aviation authorities.

At the same time, in many countries, SITA solutions are not the only ones, notes Aleksandr Sizintsev, general director of ORS booking systems developer Aleksandr Sizintsev. “In any case, the exchange of information between airlines and airports can be ensured by alternative means”, he assured.

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