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 that Washington considered similar action in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. US officials said Washington has not yet made a final decision on whether to follow Europe and Canada in banning Russian airlines from using their airspace.

But a European official, who asked not to be identified, said the EU was fully confident that Washington would follow its lead.

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 uses Russian airspace for flights to India.

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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 .

The sanctions have triggered 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 dealing with Russian airlines. Read more

The rerouting meant Kazakhstan’s airspace saw a tripling of flights 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

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%, leading to a decline in airline shares which fell more than 4% in Europe and the United States.

German group Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) said 30 flights to Russia would be canceled this week while Latvian AirBaltic said it was extending the suspension of flights to Russia until the end of May.

Lufthansa said its flights from Europe to Tokyo and Seoul would have to make detours for which the company had obtained the necessary flight rights.

Swiss, also owned by the Lufthansa Group, canceled Monday’s flight from Zurich to Moscow, citing what it said was an unclear regulatory situation, and said it was not flying over Russian airspace. Z8N2RV01I

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

Russian carrier Aeroflot (AFLT.MM) announced on Sunday that it would cancel all flights to European destinations.

On Monday, however, an Aeroflot plane bound for Verona in Italy was forced into a holding pattern outside EU airspace and diverted to Turkey after apparently crashing 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

Among other disruptions, Gulf carrier Flydubai canceled flights to Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don in Russia until March 8, but said it would continue flights from Dubai to Moscow and seven other Russian destinations. Read more

In Asia, Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) announced that it was suspending all services between Singapore and Moscow until further notice.

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

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

Airspace closures and flight cancellations have also begun to affect cargo traffic, further exacerbating global supply chain issues caused by the pandemic slowing cargo handling around the world.

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, 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; edited by Jason Neely

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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