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May 20, 2022
U.K. Airlines Banned From Russian Airspace As Moscow Hits Back At Western Sanctions

U.K. Airlines Banned From Russian Airspace As Moscow Hits Back At Western Sanctions

British flights will be banned from flying over Russia’s airspace or landing at its airports, the Russian civil aviation authority announced Friday, a retaliatory step to Western sanctions that further complicates global travel around the region.  

British planes have been banned from Russian airspace.

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Key Facts

Rosaviatsiya, Russia’s civil aviation authority, said the ban was in response to “unfriendly decisions” by U.K. aviation authorities.

The U.K. banned Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot from British airspace and landing in its airports on Thursday, part of sanctions leveled against Moscow for invading Ukraine. 

The step marks another difficulty for airlines navigating the region, with Ukrainian and Moldovan airspace already closed to civilian flights along with parts of Russian and Belarusian airspace.

Airlines are already preparing contingency plans due to the conflict and have reportedly begun making inquiries about capacity at Alaska’s Anchorage Airport, a popular refueling hub during the Cold War, according to Reuters. 

Some, like Japan Airlines’ flight to Moscow Thursday evening, have also canceled flights over security fears, Reuters reported, and others have reported longer flight times due to routing changes.  

What To Watch For
More sanctions and widening disruption. It is possible the regions of airspace closed to civilian traffic could expand as conflict continues, particularly in neighboring countries. It’s also possible Russia could bar other airlines or countries from flying over their airspace or face bans of its own as part of future sanctions. Belarus, which has been accused of facilitating Russian aggression, could also face sanctions. 

Key Background
The disruption and conflict is another blow to the aviation industry, which is still managing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic as global travel ground to a halt and wary passengers avoided planes. Russia’s invasion sparked a rapid response from airlines Thursday as they scrambled to adjust routes to accommodate recently-closed airspace over Ukraine. Beyond logistic difficulties and scrapping of routes, the conflict in Europe could cause further delays to the industry’s recovery, with oil prices spiking to the highest point in years. 

Further Reading
Image shows empty airspace over Ukraine and its border with Russia (CNN)

Airlines scramble as Ukraine invasion redraws route map (Reuters)

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