**Update: 25/05/21 @ 14:30 UTC – Lufthansa spokesperson now confirms services to Minsk have been canceled.**
The fallout continues from Sunday’s incident involving Ryanair flight 4978 when Belarusian authorities forced the aircraft to divert to Minsk in order to arrest a dissident journalist under the pretenses of a bomb alert. On Tuesday, May 24th, Lufthansa announced it was suspending its operations in Belarusian airspace as a response to the incident.
No flights over Belarusian airspace
In a post to Twitter by the AFP News Agency, Lufthansa has said that it will suspend operations in Belarusian airspace. Little additional information has been provided on what this entails.
However, we would presume that this would most obviously include Lufthansa’s narrowbody service between Frankfurt and Minsk, as well as airline operations overflying the country.
Already, we are seeing Lufthansa flights skirt the country, with LH1452 from Frankfurt to Moscow overflying Lithuania and Latvia, rather than its normal routing over Belarus.
Strangely, however, it appears that Lufthansa flights to Minsk still appear on the airline’s website, available for booking. At the time of publication, flights on May 26th, 28th, 29th, and onward are still results on the airline’s flight reservation system.
UPDATE: A Lufthansa spokesperson offered the following statement:
Lufthansa cancels the flight (FRA-MSQ, with 96 guests) on May 26 and the return flight LH1489 (MSQ-FRA with 69 guests) on May 27. Until further notice Lufthansa does not fly through Belarusian airspace. We are monitoring the situation and are in constant contact with our authorities.
Passengers will be informed. We regret any inconvenience this may cause but, safety is always Lufthansa’s top priority.
A previous update noted that the airline would continue with its May 26th flight.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Lufthansa joins others condemning Belarusian actions
News of the suspension comes shortly after Belarusian security forces escorted a Ryanair 737 to Minsk, citing reports of a bomb threat. The aircraft was flying from Athens (Greece) to Vilnius (Lithuania) and was overflying Belarusian airspace.
Following the aircraft’s landing in Minsk, Roman Protasevitch, a journalist known for being critical of the Belarusian government, was arrested. The flight was then allowed to resume course with reports that 121 people reached Vilnius out of the 126 originally on the flight.
International condemnation has followed the incident. Since then, the following actions have taken place:
- The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has suspended Belavia’s operating permit and has requested airlines avoid flying through Belarusian airspace.
- airBaltic has announced that it will avoid entering Belarusian airspace.
- IATA has strongly condemned the actions and is demanding a full investigation.
- Pledge Times also reports that KLM will also avoid flying through Belarus.
Lufthansa’s own security threat
News of Lufthansa’s reaction, while a day after the Ryanair incident, comes just hours after one of its own aircraft was the center of a security threat in Minsk.
According to Reuters, Minsk authorities, prompted by a security alert, unloaded luggage and freight from flight LH1487, which was destined for Frankfurt. Security personnel carried out renewed security checks on 56 people onboard, which also included the flight’s five crew members.
“The message about the terrorist attack, which was received earlier by e-mail of the airport, was not confirmed,” an airport spokesperson said to Reuters. The A319 departed Minsk two hours late.
What’s your reaction to Lufthansa’s Belarus suspension? Should other airlines do the same? Let us know in the comments.