US-Belarus Bilateral Agreement To Be Revoked Over Ryanair Diversion

Belarus is now dealing with more sanctions from the fallout of the Ryanair Incident. The US confirmed today it would suspend the 2019 bilateral air service agreement with Belarus, effectively halting flights between the two countries.

The US is suspending its Bilateral Air Service agreement with Belarus over recent events. Photo: Belavia

Belarus and its troubled aviation industry are now facing another challenge, this time from the US. The White House and the Biden administration have confirmed it is suspending the bilateral air service agreement signed with Belarus in 2019.

The agreement removed restrictions on the number of flights and the routes connecting the two countries. Only US airlines and Belarusian carriers can operate under this agreement. The agreement allows US and Belarusian carriers to operate flights in each other’s airspace.

Without the agreement, flights between the two countries are effectively ended. The suspension means plans to turn Minsk National Airport into a hub for fifth freedom flights to the US have been put on hold.

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Further sanctions on Belarus

The suspension of the bilateral air service agreement is a significant blow to Belarus and its national airline Belavia. The country has come under sanctions and restrictions from most European countries in recent weeks. The US has also said further sanctions may be forthcoming. According to ch-aviation.com, the countries actions against the Ryanair flight last month may lead to further economic sanctions against Belarusian companies and individuals.

Belavia Belarusian Airlines planes at Minsk
Belarus’ national carrier Belavia has almost completely grounded operations thanks to restrictions from Europe. Photo: Getty Images

The sanctions already in place are making it hard for Belavia, the country’s national airline.  The airline is currently only able to leave Belarusian airspace if it flies over Russia. All neighboring countries have revoked the right for the airline to use their airspace. The airline also cannot land in European Union airports, effectively halting all Belavia operations. 

Minsk as a hub?

Reports suggest that the fresh US sanctions have stopped plans to turn Minsk into a major hub airport. But talk of Minsk becoming a large hub airport has been going on for years. Talks first started when air sanctions came into place between Russia and Ukraine back in October 2015.

The sanctions meant Belavia could step up and increase regional capacity, which it did almost immediately. The talk started circulating that Minsk was preparing to become a major regional hub for Eastern Europe.

The Belarusian government had planned to turn Minsk airport into a hub for flights to the US. Photo: Getty Images

While Minsk does play a key role in regional operations, it never became the large hub people were talking about. Now, people are talking again. This time reports suggest the airport is about to become a major hub for fifth-freedom flights connecting the Middle East and Asia to the US. Reportedly, the Belarus government has been in talks with several airlines, including Qatar Airways, regarding flights to the US via Belarus.

Whatever the government had planned for Minsk Airport, everything has now ground to a halt.

What do you think of Minsk becoming a fifth-freedom flight hub to the US? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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