Airlines redirect flight paths to avoid Russia and Ukraine

Airlines around the world are rerouting flight paths after the recent wave of airspace travel restrictions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Union has banned Russian planes from crossing its airspace, thereby triggering Moscow’s reciprocal ban on European planes.

Late last week, commercial airlines in Europe were warned to avoid Ukrainian airspace, as well as the surrounding countries of Belarus and Moldova. While many flights were rerouted as a result of airline sanctions, some were rerouted due to security measures.

Since March 2, the airlines that cross the region have given a large place to Ukraine. The bulk of passenger carriers that still flew through Russian airspace, such as Aeroflot,

Rossiya Airlines, Ural Airlines and Utair — owned or affiliated with Russians. A few international airlines still operate in the region. Among them are carriers based in countries neighboring Russia, such as Belavia Belarusian Airlines, Kazakhstan’s Air Astana and Turkish Airlines..

Finnish carrier Finnair has been forced to reroute many of its flights from the region its planes typically pass through. A Finnair flight from Stockholm to Phuket, Thailand, now flies southeast to Saudi Arabia rather than Russia. Although this route change did not significantly affect the duration of the 11-hour flight, airline sanctions caused delays of several hours in some other cases.

Re-routing around Russia is expensive, adding around 700 nautical miles to a flight from Frankfurt to Beijing, which is typically 4,217 nautical miles, according to Eurocontrol, which runs Europe’s air traffic control system. This resulted in an increase of almost two hours in flight time, totaling 10 hours and 27 minutes, for passengers on board a Lufthansa. HER

flight on February 27, compared to the same flights that had taken place three days earlier.

Some northern routes that usually fly over Russia may require longer changes. A hypothetical return flight between London and Tokyo could mean an additional 2 hours and $25,000 in fuel costs for the round trip, according to an analysis by Alton Aviation Consultancy.

Russia did not ban Korean Air Lines Co.

from its skies, allowing the South Korean carrier to maintain its fast route from Chicago to Seoul. Without Russian airspace, Korean Air would have to take a longer route similar to United Airlines Holdings Inc.

British Airways was also affected by the airspace closure, forcing it to reroute flight BA142 from New Delhi to London, among other places. Like the Finnair flight, this plane was headed southeast, flying under Ukraine and over the Black Sea, rather than Russia and Kazakhstan. The rerouting resulted in a 15-minute increase for passengers on board on March 1, compared to those who flew on February 23.

Experts warn that flight times will increase, costs will rise and revenues will fall as more airlines determine routes that bypass Russian airspace.

When Kherson became the first Ukrainian city to come under Russian occupation, people hid inside their homes. The United Nations said more than a million people fled Ukraine in the first week of the war. Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Corrections & Amplifications
The rerouting of a British Airways flight from New Delhi to London added 15 minutes to flight time on March 1, compared to February 23. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the comparison was for a flight on February 25. (Corrected March 3)

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