Russia has banned flights over its airspace by Ukraine’s airlines, forcing Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) among others to re-route to eastern destinations from Kiev.
“UIA is deeply concerned with destructive actions of the Russian authorities and their controversial stand on transit flights of Ukrainian airlines banned from transit over the Russian territory,” the airline said in a statement on August 8. The airline said the ban would increase its operating costs by 15- to 20 percent, as well as lead to flight delays.
According to the Main Air Traffic Management Center of the Unified Air Traffic Management System of the Russian Federation, Russian authorities have refused to process UIA’s application to perform flights from Kiev to Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan through previously permitted entry points to Russian airspace.
“The company is deeply concerned about the fact that the Russian authorities are trying to use air transport as a tool for political pressure, cynically ignoring the interests of thousands of citizens from dozens of countries being the UIA passengers,” the airline concluded.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently instructed his country’s transport officials to draw up plans to block the use of Russian airspace by European Union airlines for flights to and from Asia. The policy, confirmed in meetings with Russia’s transport department and the management of flag carrier Aeroflot on August 5, constitutes part of a move by Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate against the EU in response to its latest round of economic sanctions to protest Russia’s alleged support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions, which took effect on August 1, resulted in the grounding of Aeroflot subsidiary Dobrolet on August 4.
Shares in several European airlines, including Air France, International Airlines Group and Lufthansa, fell as reports of the planned ban first emerged. According to Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, the long-standing agreements covering overflight rights in airspace above Siberia reduce typical flights by 2,160 nm (4,000 km) and save European airlines as much as $30,000 on fuel costs for each sector.