Russia Denies Some Airlines Avoiding Belarusian Airspace

This past week, Russia denied some airlines entry into its airspace. The move was thought to be a response to airline policy of avoiding Belarusian airspace. This avoidance of Belarus was triggered by the incidents of May 23rd, which saw a Ryanair flight forced down and a dissident journalist arrested. So far, Air France and Austrian Airlines have been denied entry into Russian airspace, forcing them to cancel certain flights.

Russia Denies Some Airlines Avoiding Belarusian Airspace
Air France has had to cancel some of its flights to Russia. Photo: Magic Aviation via Wikimedia Commons 

The canceled flights

In recent days we have seen flights operated by Air France and Austrian Airlines to Moscow canceled. To date, these are the flights that have been canceled:

  • Three Air France services between Paris and Moscow (AF1154/1155)
  • One Austrian Airlines service from Vienna to Moscow (OS601/602)
  • And at least one Austrian cargo service from Vienna to Nanjing (OS6029/6030)

The common thread with the two airlines is their avoidance of Belarusian airspace in response to the May 23rd incident involving Ryanair flight FR4978. The airlines and their respective services to Moscow would have traditionally seen them overfly Belarus. However, in condemnation of the Belarusian action, these airlines, as well as several others, are flying around the Eastern European state instead.

Thus, the denial of entry into Russian airspace has, on the surface, been seen as an act of retaliation, as Russia has strongly backed the actions of Belarus.

Russia Denies Some Airlines Avoiding Belarusian Airspace
The Austrian Airlines flight to Moscow was canceled on May 27th. Photo:
Russia Denies Some Airlines Avoiding Belarusian Airspace
The Air France flight to Moscow was canceled on May 26th, 27th, and 28th. Photo:

Russia cites delays issuing permits

According to Bloomberg, there was different reasoning for the denial of the Air France and Austrian flights. The news outlet shared an official explanation from Russia’s civil aviation regulator, Rosaviatsiya, which said that there were delays in issuing permits. The delay is said to come from Russia experiencing a jump in demand for new routes across its territory. This demand comes from European airlines looking to avoid overflying Belarus.

Austrian, a Lufthansa Group member, says that it had received permission to conduct a rerouted passenger flight between Vienna and Moscow on May 28th. This has been confirmed with flight information embedded above. At the same time, however, the airline is still awaiting approval for its cargo flight to/from Nanjing. The airline says that approval is expected.

Russia Denies Some Airlines Avoiding Belarusian Airspace
Austrian Airlines typically operates the Airbus A320 for its flights between Vienna and Moscow. Photo: Lufthansa Group

Indeed, other airlines who have been avoiding Belarusian airspace have successfully operated flights to and from Russia, unlike Air France and Austrian. Austrian’s fellow group member, Lufthansa, flew to Moscow on May 26th and 28th without any issue. It appears that the carrier’s future flights on May 30th and 31st will go ahead as well.

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The permit delay explanation, if true, would go a long way in ensuring the situation between the EU and Russia does not escalate further. Indeed, if Russia denied EU airlines the ability to enter its airspace, we would expect to see EU nations retaliate with actions against Russian carriers. Thankfully, in terms of avoiding more significant international tensions, this hasn’t been the case.

What do you think of Russia’s explanation of the flight plan denials? Is this a credible reason, or is there more to the action? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.