Russian planes now banned from US airspace : NPR


Aeroflot passenger planes are seen parked at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow on Tuesday. Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, said on Monday it had suspended flights to New York, Washington, Miami and Los Angeles because Canada closed its airspace to Russian planes.

Pavel Golovkin/AP


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Pavel Golovkin/AP

Russian planes now banned from US airspace : NPR

Aeroflot passenger planes are seen parked at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow on Tuesday. Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, said on Monday it had suspended flights to New York, Washington, Miami and Los Angeles because Canada closed its airspace to Russian planes.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

As of 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Russian planes are barred from entering US airspace.

President Biden announced he was ordering this in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, joining the European Union and Canada in banning Russian planes, part of a global effort to punish the Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s regime should reciprocate and ban US planes from entering Russian airspace. That could mean longer flights as the jets are rerouted around closed airspace, but aviation industry experts say Russians are likely to feel the biggest impact.

According to a U.S. Department of Transportation statement, the order prohibits all passenger, cargo, and charter flights on “all aircraft owned, certified, operated, registered, chartered, leased, or controlled by, for, or for the benefit of ‘a person who is a citizen of Russia.’

Any aircraft operator that violates the ban on entering U.S. airspace “may be intercepted, and its pilots and other crew members detained and questioned by law enforcement or security personnel, according to the case”.

The airline that will see the most immediate impact is Russia’s Aeroflot, which had flown to Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC, and flown over US and Canadian airspace to destinations in the Caribbean. These flights to and from the United States are now banned and Aeroflot will have to reroute flights to popular holiday destinations.

“So places like Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Cancun in Mexico, those destinations are not off limits,” says Ian Petchenik of global flight tracking service FlightRadar24. “But the road to get there has become much longer for Russian airlines,” as they will have to fly through international airspace over the Atlantic.

An Aeroflot flight from Miami to Moscow on Sunday violated Canada’s ban on Russian overflights. Canadian air traffic control authorities told Reuters that Aeroflot had declared the flight a “humanitarian” mission.

The country’s aviation authority, Transport Canada, said on Twitter that it was investigating the airspace violation. “We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement and other measures to prevent future violations,” the agency said.

Additionally, Petchenik says vacation destinations in the Caribbean will be more difficult to access.

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines has suspended its codeshare agreement with Aeroflot.

Russia is expected to reciprocate and close its airspace to US airlines, as it has done to Canadian and EU ones, but Petchenik says the impact will be relatively small.

“It’s very few passenger flights. And the cargo flights that are affected spend a bit more time in the air, but most of those flights are still able to operate,” he said.

No US airline currently flies to Russian cities, and those that flew over vast Russian airspace to Asia had already been diverted out of caution. It takes time and consumes a lot more fuel, which increases costs. Thus, United Airlines has temporarily suspended flights over Russia to New Delhi and Mumbai, India.

And about 300 cargo flights a month are affected, most departing from the West Coast or Anchorage, Alaska, to destinations in Japan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong, but Petchenik says they may divert their flight paths from Russian airspace.

“So you spend a little more time in the air, you burn a little more fuel,” but flights can still work.

Airline industry sources say that if this had happened before the pandemic, the impact would have been much greater. US airlines flew some 1,400 flights per week through Russian airspace in 2019, but the pandemic has sharply curtailed international air travel.

European airlines are more heavily affected, as many no longer fly to the Russian cities they used to fly, nor can they fly shorter routes through Russian airspace to and from many Asian destinations.

Petchenik says Lufthansa’s flight from Frankfurt to Tokyo, for example, which looped over Russia’s polar region, has now taken a much longer route through South Asia. Thus, a flight that lasted less than 10 hours now takes almost 13 hours.

“So you’re adding a significant amount of time and a significant amount of distance flown, which also means a significant amount of fuel burnt,” which makes it much more expensive for the airline, Petchenik said.

So while experts say the airspace ban is largely symbolic, the economic sanctions will likely cripple the ability of Russian airlines to operate their fleets, as it becomes nearly impossible for them to obtain parts and to make the necessary repairs to keep their planes flying.

Aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus, and GE, which makes and services aircraft engines, have both announced they are suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.

“The inability to access services and spare parts and all the electronic support that comes with operating a modern airliner, all of these things will bring the Russian commercial aviation industry to a halt very quickly.” , Petchenik said.


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