E.U. to Ban Russian Flights in Effort to Further Isolate Putin

Bloomberg — In an attempt to isolate President Vladimir Putin, the European Union will block Russia from its airspace. This follows his order to invade neighboring Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced a collective action in Brussels Sunday. It is one of a number of sanctions, flight bans, and aid for Ukraine that were unfurled on Sunday by Western countries to try to persuade Putin to stop.

The EU’s biggest members, including France and Germany, barred Russian planes earlier, and airlines on both sides of the divide were already feeling the effects of reciprocal measures that, if they stand, will set operating conditions back decades, harkening Cold War-era prohibitions on Western flights across Siberia.
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Aeroflot’s direct access to points west has been walled off, forcing the national flag carrier to veer far to the north or south. Moscow responded by blocking access to Russian airspace — a key pathway for long-haul journeys with Asia — for airlines from the U.K. and a number of European countries in retaliation.

Combining this with EU-imposed sanctions on parts of aircrafts, some had to stop flights to Russia, and travel through Russia to reach destinations such as Shanghai, Seoul, and Hong Kong.

Air France, Finnair Oyj and Air France were some of the air carriers that had suspended their flights to Asia. French carriers said they were looking at other options to maintain service and avoid Russian airspace. Finnair mentioned the increased fuel costs and travel time.

“For many of our North-East Asia flights, rerouting would mean considerably longer flight time, and operations would not be economically feasible,” the Scandinavian carrier said.

Economic repercussions for carriers quickly stacked up.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has suspended its cargo-only service from London Heathrow and Shanghai on Friday. This is one example of how actions beyond airline could have an impact on business activity.

Air France-KLM’s Dutch subsidiary, Deutsche Lufthansa AG (Hungarian Discounter Wizz Air Holdings Plc) each stated they would stop flights to and from Russia for seven calendar days.

There are still four Wizz planes stranded in Ukraine. Ukraine International Airlines has extended an air suspension until March 23, as its domestic airspace is closed.


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