Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine has triggered harsh sanctions and flight prohibitions, forbidding Russian airlines to enter the airspace of the EU, UK, Canada, the U.S., and Japan. Also, jetliners and turboprops stemming from U.S. or EU manufacturers are banned from being sold and delivered to Russian airlines. Russian carriers are cut off from supplies of aircraft spare parts and components built by western producers.
In a nutshell, a new Iron Curtain is stretching across the skies, isolating the Russian aviation industry.
The British government closed its airspace to all Russian aircraft late Friday (25FEB22), targeting particularly state-owned Aeroflot. “I've signed restrictions prohibiting all scheduled Russian airlines from entering UK airspace or touching down on British soil. Putin’s heinous actions will not be ignored, and we will never tolerate those who put people’s lives in danger,” tweeted Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.
Soon after, Poland, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Romania followed suit, forbidding Russian carriers crossing their skies or landing on any of their airports. So did Germany on Sunday at 3 pm CET (27FEB22). The EU Commission followed suit last night, closing the entire airspace of the bloc for Russian airlines, including private jets of oligarchs. Moscow reacted immediately by shutting off their airspace for any EU, U.S., UK, Canadian, or Japanese carrier. Due to their country's geographical nearness, this affects mainly EU and Japanese passenger and cargo carriers serving the EU and East Asian markets.
New flight plans are required
As of now, they will have to circumvent the enormous Russian land mass by choosing more southerly routes between Europe and the Pacific rim, taking via Turkey, the Gulf region and India. In the case of Lufthansa Cargo, head of Communications, Jacqueline Casini, regretted that some scheduled cargo flights had to be called off due to external circumstances. These are:
Flight LH8410 on 27FEB22 from Frankfurt to Chengdu.
Flight LH8474 on 28FEB22 from Frankfurt, via Bangalore, to Hong Kong.
Flight LH8475 on 01MAR22. The planned routing Frankfurt, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Seoul and back to Frankfurt is cancelled.
“With immediate effect, Lufthansa Cargo will fly around Russian airspace via a southern routing. This will make adjustments to the flight schedule and payload unavoidable,” Ms. Casini writes.
Similarly reacts AeroLogic that called back one of their freighters after departure in LEJ en route to Japan shortly before reaching Russian airspace. AeroLogic is a joint venture of DHL Express and Lufthansa Cargo (50/50%).
In average, LH Cargo crosses Siberian airspace 7 times each day. Due to the detour, flights take between one and two hours longer, depending on the alternative southern routes chosen by the carrier. This leads to higher fuel burn, reducing the transport capacity offered to the market. However, the high transit fees and royalties demanded by Moscow for transits don't apply any longer. But the states that are now overflown also charge substantial fees for permitting airlines to cross their airspace which might result in a zero-sum game.
Tit for tat move
Prior to the flight bans, Moscow was told by most EU countries that none of their aircraft would be technically serviced and overhauled in Europe any longer.
In combination with the airspace closures this will end the era of civil aviation based on the Chicago Convention signed on December 7, 1944, by 52 signatory states.
Russian freight carriers could become victims of Putin’s war
In the case of Russian cargo airlines, first and foremost AirBridgeCargo and its parent Volga-Dnepr, the sanctions are likely to trigger an existential crisis. Their core business model, flying goods between the Far East and Europe via Moscow or Novosibirsk, now lies in ruins.
Consequently, the air transport capacity on east-west routes will be further reduced, resulting in additional price hikes. Transcontinental cargo trains are not directly affected by the sanctions, in contrast to initial reports. But an increasing number of freight forwarders are foregoing the use of rail transports between Europe and China, especially since many trains are routed via Belarus. The country actively supports Putin's war against Ukraine.
It seems that Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine will lead to a new iron wall both in the air and on the ground.
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On 26FEB22, Vyacheslav Cheglatonyev, Marketing and Commercial Director of Odessa International Airport, sent this desperate and heartbreaking call for hepl on LinkedIn from the Black Sea city of Odessa.
Because of the urgency we decided to publish his plea here:
Dear Aviation Community
On behalf of the Odessa Airport Team, on behalf of all destroyed Ukrainian Airports, on behalf of all Ukrainian citizens who are still alive or already died for Ukraine, peace, and freedom. I address every person in civil aviation who has power, pride, and heart. We are still under bombs and bullets of Russian terrorists. Every single moment we are losing our lives, families, homes, but not dignity.
We are losing our beloved aviation for many long years ahead. All the Ukrainian airports are completely or partially destroyed by the Russian military aviation.
We ask you for immediate action and measures:
Assist for provision Ukraine with the shelter from the sky – all the rest will be handled by the Ukrainian armed forces!
Close the sky for Russia.
Ban the Russian airlines and airports.
Kindly ask you to share this urgent appeal with all airports and aviation decision makers all over the world.
We will remember forever your help. Pray for Ukraine. Do something for Ukraine!!!