American Dems and Reps still cooperate occasionally despite their grave differences. This was recently demonstrated by Senator Robert Menendez from the Democrats and his Republican colleague, James Risch. In a joint letter to Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, they demand that airlines no longer be allowed to land at U.S. airports if they have crossed Russian airspace on their way to the States.
Should the Biden administration back the initiative, Chinese passenger and cargo aircraft flying from Beijing to New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, would be prohibited from entering U.S. airspace. After departing Beijing, they currently cross Siberian territory before reaching Alaskan skies. Conversely, U.S. carriers cannot take this route because of the West's sanctions against the Putin regime.
A4A praises the initiative
However, Chinese carriers would not be the only ones punished by this step. It would also affect airlines from the Middle East, namely Emirates, which flies over Russia on its way to destinations on the U.S. West Coast, but also en route to JFK.
Airlines for America (A4A), the trade association for the country’s leading passenger and cargo airlines, praised the letter “underscoring our industry’s long-standing concerns regarding Russian overflights, which have put U.S. airlines – passenger and cargo – at a direct competitive disadvantage.” A4A’s voice is widely heard since the organization represents the big players AA, UA, DL, UPS, FedEx Express, and Alaskan among other carriers.
Hence, it is no surprise that A4A has meanwhile strongly supported the advance of the two politicians, demanding the “[Washington] administration to take urgent action to ensure that foreign carriers that are overflying Russia do not depart, land, or transit through U.S. airports."
In addition to the above, Menendez and Risch's push goes even further: They asked the Biden administration to prohibit U.S. government personnel on official travel from taking flights known to cross Russian airspace. “The risk to Americans flying over Russian airspace is real, as demonstrated by Russian-backed separatists who shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight, killing all 298 passengers on board, or the government of Belarus, using as a pretense a false-bomb alert, ordered a Ryanair flight over its territory to land so that it could seize and detain a particular passenger,” the Senators wrote.
Brussels remains hesitant
U.S. air carriers currently serve Shanghai from the United States through a stop in Incheon, South Korea. The Senators’ letter concludes: “Proactive action taken by the Administration now would protect Americans from these significant risks, as well as closing off a funding source to the Russian government, and addressing an inequity that puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage to foreign competition.”
Unlike the U.S. senators, the EU is still taking a wait-and-see approach. There, too, the competitive disadvantage to European airlines caused by the crossing of Russian airspace by Chinese airlines or, as is now the case, by Ethiopian Cargo, is an issue. However, Brussels has not yet decided on any countermeasures.
Russian regulator lacks money
Meanwhile, Rosaviatsiya, the Russian aviation authority, has adopted an anti-crisis package due to a lack of revenue from overflights by Western airlines. It has imposed a hiring freeze on all professional groups, including technicians, air traffic controllers, and administrative staff. The regulator speaks of an “inevitable step” caused by a shortfall in revenue. Aeroflot is also affected. This is because Moscow used to channel a considerable portion of the overflight fees directly into the coffers of the state carrier.
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