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Russian airlines cut off from growing swath of European airspace

Russian airlines were cut off on Saturday from a growing surface of European airspace, as notable flight bans disrupted commercial aviation and forced some planes for long detours.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia have all declared bans on Russian airlines to use their airspace or land at their airports, joining the UK, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Poland to seal their skies. The bans apply to all Russian airlines, including the flagship company Aeroflot.

Romania has also announced a ban on Russian companies in its airspace, Reuters reported.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Callas said: “There is no room for the planes of the country attacking a democratic sky.”

Earlier this week, Moscow warned that it would retaliate against countries that imposed flight restrictions. As of Saturday afternoon, the Kremlin has banned airlines from the UK, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic from flying over or landing on its territory.

The moves came when Dutch airline KLM ordered two planes en route to Russia to take off in mid-flight to meet EU sanctions.

KLM said the decision was made because the sanctions, which were imposed earlier this week, banned the sending of spare parts for aircraft to Russia, even if they were intended for the use of the airline.

“This means that KLM can no longer guarantee that flights to Russia can return safely,” KLM said, adding that it “is considering what this implies for upcoming flights to Russia and flights scheduled to pass over Russian territory.”

Prohibitions from Baltic countries and Eastern European governments leave Russian airlines dwindling options for flight routes to Western Europe.

Tracking data from Flightradar24 showed that Aeroflot made a significant detour over northern Europe and the Baltic Sea on Saturday morning flight between Moscow and Budapest, adding 70 minutes to its journey. He made the journey before several Baltic states announced their decisions to seal off their airspace.

The restrictions already imposed by Moscow have presented operational difficulties for British airlines, which will typically use Russian airspace as they fly the “Great Circle route” over northern Russia and to parts of Asia, including China and Japan.

Virgin Atlantic suspended a line that only carried cargo between London and Shanghai, while British Airways confirmed it would redirect to avoid Russian airspace, leading to longer flight times and higher fuel costs.

European airlines expect to be banned from Russian airspace if EU leaders hit Russian companies in future rounds of sanctions, a scenario one senior official has described as “catastrophic” for the industry.

Airlines have held planning talks and expected to be forced to turn to “massive routing” if banned from the Russian skies, the man said.

European airlines have varying levels of exposure to Asia, which is still closed to many visitors due to the corona virus. At the extreme end, Pinaire has built its entire long-term business model across lines to Asia over Russia.

However, the damage from moderation so far due to very weak demand for flights to Asia.

BA is not currently flying services to China or Japan, but will typically operate multiple flights a day, its CEO, Sean Doyle, said Friday as it reduced the impact of the bans.

Azerbaijan’s air navigation services said they had opened up alternative air routes for airlines seeking to avoid Russian airspace without adding huge distractions to flights.

Another report by Nastasia Asterschauskaya in Moscow and Joshua Oliver in London

Russian airlines cut off from growing swath of European airspace Source link Russian airlines cut off from growing swath of European airspace

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