Russia sanctions rumble flights, compounding airline industry woes

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HELSINKI/PARIS/CHICAGO, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Airlines are bracing for potentially long lockdowns of key east-west flight corridors after the European Union and Moscow issued tit-for-tat airspace bans. tat and Washington have not ruled out similar action in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Industry officials have said the Biden administration will bar Russia from US airspace. The White House said Monday that a ban on Russian flights was not on the table, but had not yet made a decision.

“There are a lot of flights that American airlines fly over Russia to get to Asia and other parts of the world and we take into account a series of factors,” the door told reporters. – White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki.

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The issue has been the subject of intense discussion within the US government in recent days. Senator Dick Durbin, the second Democrat in the US Senate, expressed support for the ban.

“Other countries have done it in Europe and turning off airport lights on these guys is not a bad idea,” he told reporters.

A European official, who asked not to be identified, said the EU was fully confident Washington would follow suit.

A White House decision to ban Russian carriers is expected to provoke a response from Moscow, which could affect carriers like United Airlines. The Chicago-based carrier, for example, uses Russian airspace for flights from Delhi.

Russia on Monday banned airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, after EU ministers agreed to deny entry to Russian planes, including the private jets of the country’s oligarchs .

In one of the first signs of differences in European ranks, the president of Italy’s civil aviation authority called airspace sanctions against Russia a violation of international treaties.

The EU official, however, said the EU sanctions were “carefully crafted in accordance with international law”.

The sanctions have caused flight cancellations and costly detours, hampering the industry’s pandemic recovery and dealing a blow to the mainly Ireland-based rental industry, which has been ordered to stop doing business with Russian airlines. Read more

The rerouting meant flights in Kazakhstan’s airspace tripled to more than 450 on Monday. Read more

Without access to Russian airspace, many carriers will have to divert flights south while avoiding areas of tension in the Middle East. Read more

A general view of the business class cabin of a Finnair A350 aircraft is pictured in Helsinki, Finland December 3, 2021. Finnair/Handout via REUTERS

Finland’s national carrier Finnair has canceled flights to Japan, Korea, China and Russia and dropped its 2022 forecast as sanctions block access to Asia – a cornerstone of its strategy in recent years due to the location of its Helsinki hub.

Finnair shares plunged 21%, dragging down airline stocks in Europe and the United States.

German group Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) said 30 flights to Russia would be canceled this week and flights from Europe to Tokyo and Seoul would have to take detours.

Russian carrier Aeroflot (AFLT.MM) said it had canceled flights to the United States, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic until Wednesday due to the closure of Canadian airspace. The announcement came a day after the carrier said it would cancel all flights to European destinations.

On Monday, an Aeroflot plane bound for Verona in Italy was forced into a holding pattern outside EU airspace and diverted to Turkey after apparently being denied access, according to flightradar24.

It came hours after one of its flights flew through Canadian airspace despite Toronto’s ban on Russian planes, prompting a regulator to launch a review into the conduct of Aeroflot and the service provider air traffic control of Canada. Read more

DISTURBANCE

Other carriers from AirBaltic of Latvia to Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) have also suspended flights to Russia.

Korean Air (003490.KS), Japan Airlines (9201.T) and Japanese company ANA Holdings said they continue to use Russian airspace but have no plans to add flights to Russia. Russia or Europe to replace flights canceled by European carriers.

Demand to Japan and South Korea was weak due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Airspace closures and flight cancellations have also started to affect cargo traffic, further exacerbating global supply chain problems.

Many cargo carriers use Russian airspace, which is a major crossroads for global trade, about half of which by value is transported by air.

“Due to the ongoing dramatic developments in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Lufthansa will no longer use Russian airspace,” Lufthansa Cargo said.

US-based United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) and FedEx Corp (FDX.N), two of the world’s largest logistics companies, said they were halting deliveries to Russia. Read more

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Reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago, David Shepardson in Washington, Jamie Freed in Sydney, Francesca Landini in Milan, Anne Kauranen in Helsinki, Maki Shiraki in Tokyo, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore, Ilona Wissenbach in Berlin, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Michael Shields in Zurich and Reuters in Moscow Editing by Jason Neely and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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