An Air France flight from Paris to Moscow could not take off yesterday as Russian authorities had not approved its new flight route. The route, re-planned to avoid Belarusian airspace, required new authorization, but it was not granted in time. The conflict comes as eight European countries have now suspended the operating permissions of Belarusian flag-carrier Belavia.
Moscow rerouting not approved by Russia
First revealed by Novaya Gazeta yesterday, Air France has been forced to cancel its Paris to Moscow flight after Russia failed to approve a new routing. The new route, designed to bypass Belarusian airspace, required a new authorization from the Russian authorities. As it was not received, Air France flight AF1154 was scrapped.
An eyewitness submitted a video to the publication showing passengers all onboard the flight and ready to take off. AF1154, operated by a Boeing 787-9, was ready to leave at 10:20 yesterday morning, with an arrival into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport at 15:00. However, the captain is heard addressing passengers over the tannoy (in Russian), advising that the flight could not go ahead.
Airfrance отменила рейс Париж-Москва из-за отсутствия разрешения на заход в пространство России. Это связано с решением компании облетать Беларусь
— Новая Газета (@novaya_gazeta) May 26, 2021
“We still don’t have any information, unfortunately. There is still no permission to enter the airspace of the Russian Federation,” the Captain says. Shortly after, he announces that the flight will have to be canceled. The passenger notes that the Captain also commented that the absence of permission from Russia was “a very unusual situation.”
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Linked to Belarus bypass
Air France is one of a number of airlines that have avoided flying into Belarusian airspace, following the forced diversion of a Ryanair flight to Vilnius at the weekend. Finnair, Singapore Airlines, SAS, Lufthansa and airBaltic have similarly made moves not to cross the territory.
While the EU has not banned flying across Belarus, the Union had issued a recommendation that carriers avoid the airspace. With Russia a close ally of Belarus, the delayed processing of the permissions for this flight is considered to be a political snub.
Air France issued a statement regarding the incident, which said,
“Air France confirms that flight AF1154 (CDG / SVO) had to be canceled due to technical reasons related to bypassing the airspace of Belarus, which required a new permit to enter Russian airspace from the Russian authorities.”
The same service due to operate today has also been canceled. However, services remain scheduled for Saturday onwards, although it remains to be seen if they are able to go ahead. Impacted passengers have been offered rebooking on a future flight, or a refund of their fares.
But Air France was not the only airline impacted by the impasse between the EU and Belarus. Shortly after this flight was canceled, a Belavia service to Barcelona was forced to turn around mid-flight, after the pilots were informed they could not enter French airspace.
The UK’s CAA was the first to suspend the operating permit of Belavia, and has now been joined by eight other countries. As such, the airline has suspended flights to Warsaw; Milan; Amsterdam; Rome; Frankfurt; Berlin; Munich; Hannover; Vienna; Brussels; Barcelona; and Kaliningrad, from today until October 30th.