As everyone knows by now, there is a war going on in Ukraine. It’s a war that affects us all to one degree or another. But I didn’t really expect it to impact me at work very much. After all, our traffic is mostly domestic, with a few flights to Canada and Mexico mixed in. At least that’s the case at the passenger airport where my office is. Just down the road, however, is our cargo airport. It accepts flights from all over the world – including Ukraine and Russia.
When it comes to airplanes, I do not discriminate – I love them all! I marvel at the engineering and their capabilities. Flying is magic! I love seeing the different liveries and configurations and people who fly them. This is why I love the cargo airport so much. And why I need to get down there more often.
The most challenging aspect of my job typically involves invoicing – figuring out who to bill and how to get the invoice to them. In this regard I’ve run into issues with Ukraine and Russia before. There used to be an airline called Ruslan which was run jointly by the two countries. It ceased to exist in late 2016 leaving me scrambling to figure out who to bill for their final charges.
Since then both Antonov (Ukraine) and Volga Dnepr (Russia) have been fairly regular visitors. I love to see them come in because they both fly the AN-124, which is an incredibly impressive airplane. I’ve gotten up close and personal with a couple of them and have been awe-struck every time.
During the pandemic, however, their visits stopped. Perhaps they didn’t have any cargo for our area. Or maybe covid restrictions kept them away. Whatever the cause, the plane spotting community missed them. So you can imagine the excitement in mid-February when Volga Dnepr returned.
Then Russia attacked Ukraine. And sanctions were imposed upon Russia. Suddenly things got complicated. And in the midst of it all I had to send an invoice for FBO services to a Russian airline. Um… awkward!
At most airports the FBOs are independent operators. At our cargo airport, however, the airport authority runs the FBO. How does the billing work? Well the FBO keeps track of all the flights and the services provided. This includes things like turn fees (the cost of unloading cargo and then loading the outbound freight), lavatory services, de-icing, GPU usage, pushback services and fueling. The FBO also arranges catering for outbound flights and transportation to and from hotels for the crews. The details are compiled into a spreadsheet and sent to me at the end of the month. I then create invoices and send them to the responsible parties.
In the case of Volga Dnepr, we bill them directly for FBO services, but their fuel billing goes through another provider. We received an email from the fuel provider last week reminding us that they are required to abide by all laws and sanctions that have been imposed as a result of the conflict.
So what does all this mean? Well… I’m not holding my breath on receiving payment from either Volga or the third party fueling company any time soon. Perhaps not ever. I put a poll up on twitter about this situation. The results suggest most people agree with my assessment. I’ll have to send another invoice to Volga later this month for landing fees. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for peace.