AirBridgeCargo (ABC) is hoping to capture some of the rising volumes between Russia and China, India and South-east Asia with its new aircraft, an Il-96-400T, set to start operations this month.

The first of two IL-96s, both owned by lessor IFC, which began operations in 2009, has been seen at the factory airfield following repair work. The second aircraft is due to enter service early next year – but there are doubts over its efficiency.

The Il-96-400Ts have a payload of 88,000kg, but one former member of staff doubted the quality of the aircraft.

“Now ABC is buying this ‘shit’,” said the source. “Handmade, no brains used, neither human or AI. Even the people who made it don’t believe in it.

“But maybe the technicians can do magic,” he added.

An aircraft expert said: “There were very few A340skis, as they were known, built. These are ex-Polet, which went bankrupt in 2016, so they’ve been sitting around, not moving, for a long time.”

However, there is business for ABC. Cargo volumes between Russia and China have almost doubled in the past year, while traffic from Turkey increased 123% and India was up 250%, according to Russian logistics company Trasko. South-east Asian volumes are also on the rise.

Alexey Kanalin, deputy general director of Trasko, told Russia’s that shorter flights were better for domestically produced aircraft.

“At the same time, foreign carriers have no restrictions on the purchase of foreign aircraft, so they can buy more aircraft and easily increase flights to Russia. For example, the same Uzbekistan Airways has already received two brand new A330s.

“Chinese companies, as well as Turkmen and Iranian airlines, participated in the flights. If three months ago four to five airlines flew to Russia from China, today there are already more than 10 airlines on Russian routes and only three are domestic.”

Air China Cargo has just started operations between Shanghai and Moscow, and is now one of 10 Chinese airlines offering the route.

Mr Kanalin added: “In general, the market now has enough airlines operating on a wide geographic grid, but, unfortunately, most of them are foreign.”

He said a lot of cargo was now moved in bellies and added: “But the market lacks cargo capacity for the transport of bulky products and the delivery of dangerous goods”.

He explained: “Many airlines have converted their aircraft, after which they are used only for commercial loading. However, not all types of aircraft allow loading; for example, dimensions 2.4 metres high. This leads to a number of difficulties in air cargo planning.”

Payment could be another challenging issue, according to Mr Kanalin.

“The terms have also changed. For many years of working with agents, we have built strong business relationships and had certain credit limits and the possibility of deferred payments. Now, in the new realities, many agents require full prepayment even before departure.

“Moreover, after the introduction of restrictions in the field of banking operations, we were forced to switch to another currency for settlements, and also faced a reduction in limits by an average of three times. These changes have become especially noticeable in those countries with which non-scheduled flights are carried out and where the national currency is unpopular.

“In addition, today we cannot be 100% sure of the timing of the receipt of funds to the contractor’s account. For some countries, it may take up to two weeks to coordinate and confirm the shipment.”

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