How conflict is disrupting air travel


One of five Ukrainian Boeign 737-800 planes that landed at Castellon airport yesterday in the face of the political situation in Ukraine and Russia, on February 15, 2022 in Castellon, Valencian Community, Spain.

Carme Ripolles | European Press | Getty Images

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week is tearing the airline industry apart, prompting no-fly zones and other restrictions.

Ukraine closed its airspace moments before Russia invaded early Thursday, choking off an exit point.

Discount carrier Wizz Air said on Friday it was trying to evacuate stranded crews in Ukraine.

“We are still working hard to get them out as soon as possible,” spokeswoman Christie Rawlings said in an emailed statement. “We are in regular contact with the entire crew and can confirm that many of them were able to get out of the country by land transport. The majority of our employees based there are Ukrainian nationals.”

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa Group previously halted flights to Ukraine.

KLM told CNBC on Friday it is also cutting some of its flights to Russia so crews don’t have to spend the night there.

No-fly zones for aircraft have been extended to Moldova and parts of eastern Russia. Many airlines have avoided eastern Russia since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down there by a Russian missile in 2014.

The FlightRadar24 website, an online flight tracking tool, shows no planes flying over Ukraine after the Russian attack.

Igor Golovniov | Light flare | Getty Images

Backlash from Russia’s invasion included British officials banning Russian carrier Aeroflot from landing there, leading to retaliation from Russia banning British carriers from using its airspace.

Some airlines were rerouting planes around the potential conflict area in the days before the invasion.

“Any diversion that planes have to make around the no-fly zone is going to increase fuel costs,” said Bruce Chan, logistics analyst at Stifel.

Higher costs would come at a time when airlines are already grappling with soaring fuel prices.

United Parcel Service began flying further south around Ukraine last week.

“While this alternative route adds additional time to the flight, we believe it is a viable alternative to continue to provide safe and efficient operations,” the airline said in a message to pilots on February 21. . “We will continue to monitor the situation and provide you with additional updates as we receive them.”

Some international carriers have inquired about the availability of fuel and ground handling at Anchorage Airport in Alaska, a major cargo airport, a spokesperson told CNBC. The questions are a sign that airlines are making contingency plans should more Russian airspace be closed to them.

Delta Air Lines, for its part, announced on Friday that it had suspended its codeshare agreement with Aeroflot, which allowed the carriers to reserve seats on each other’s flights.


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