United States Bans Airline Ticket Sales To Belarus

The United States Department of Transportation has issued a show-cause notice proposing to ban the sale of airline tickets between the United States and Belarus. The order dated June 29 gives airlines and other parties just two days to respond if they have objections.

The United States is moving to ban ticket sales to Belarus. Photo: Getty Images

New order captures interline ticket sales

On May 23, the Government of Belarus caused a diplomatic storm when it diverted a Ryanair flight to Minsk and seized a dissident journalist. The incident is now under investigation by multiple agencies, including the International Civil Aviation Organization. Soon after the incident, the United States moved to suspend its 2019 bilateral air services agreement with Belarus.

There are no direct flights between the United States and Belarus. However, the new DOT order prevents passengers from connecting onto Belarus-bound flights outside the United States on the same ticket by targeting interline agreements. Such interline agreements operate outside the bilateral air services agreement. The move has been in the pipeline for several weeks.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation (the Department) has tentatively decided to prohibit the sale of passenger air transportation, including air transportation on an interline basis, between the United States and Belarus, except for any transportation deemed to be in the national interest of the United States, including on humanitarian or national security grounds,” the order reads.

The diversion of a Ryanair flight on May 23 is behind the proposed ban. Photo: Getty Images

The United States will named air carrier certificates to ban Belarus ticket sales

The DOT plans to amend all existing and future United States air carrier certificates and exemptions, in addition to all foreign air carrier permits and exemptions, to ban ticket sales for travel between the United States and Belarus. The order targets not just commercial airlines but charter airlines and air taxi services as well.

“The Department proposes that the condition will become effective immediately upon the issuance of a final order in this matter. We will afford interested parties two business days from the date of this order to file objections to our tentative decision.”

Two business days covers the period to July 1. The Department says they’ll give full consideration to any matters or issues raised before then. If no party raises any objections, Tuesday’s show-cause notice will become a formal order to be served on United States carriers and foreign carriers holding permits to operate in the United States.

Other than Belavia, not many airlines still fly into Minsk. Photo: Getty Images

Bans taking a toll on traffic at Minsk Airport

Many European airlines are boycotting Belarussian airports and airspace. Further, with the European Union taking steps against Belarus, the Ryanair diversion may prove an expensive mistake.

Aside from Belarussian national airline Belavia, few airlines are currently flying into state-owned Minsk National Airport (MSQ). Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines are among the best known. A handful of smaller airlines, including Uzbekistan Airlines, flydubai, Fly Baghdad, Azimuth Airlines, Iraqi Airways, Norwind Airlines, and UTair, also fly into MSQ.

The latest action taken by the United States Government deals another blow to Minsk National Airport’s aspirations of becoming a fifth freedom airline hub.

Notably, the show cause notice does not cover freight airlines like FedEx. The order also expressly excludes humanitarian and national security travel. However, if no objections are raised, Tuesday’s show-cause notice will become final and further isolate Belarus and its beleaguered national airline.