Russian flights banned from American airspace; Boeing halts maintenance support

American aviation giant Boeing on Tuesday, March 1 announced it was suspending its support for Russian airlines and its operations in Moscow amid a growing backlash to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We have suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed our office in Kyiv,” the Ukrainian capital.

We are also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines. As the conflict continues, our teams are focused on ensuring the safety of our teammates in the region.”

Spokesperson, Boeing

The announcement came a day after Boeing said it had paused operations at its Moscow Training Campus and temporarily closed its office in Kyiv.

The flag carrier of Russia Aeroflot, which flies the Boeing 737 and 777, last week announced it was suspending flights to Europe in response to the flight ban.

U.S. bans Russian flights from American airspace

The United States will follow the European Union and Canada in banning Russian flights from its airspace, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, March 1 in a move likely to trigger Russian retaliation.

The U.S. bans Russian flights from American airspace

The sweeping orders will mean any plane owned, certified, operated, registered, chartered, leased, or controlled by, for, or for the benefit of a person who is a citizen of Russia will be prohibited from flying over the U.S., the agencies said. The prohibition applies to scheduled and charter passenger and cargo flights. 

United Airlines and United Parcel Service (UPS) have also suspended flying over Russian airspace, joining other major U.S. carriers Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

“I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding squeeze on their economy,” Biden said in his State of the Union address.

The White House had held extensive talks with U.S. airlines about the issue in recent days. The ban will take effect by the end of March 2. Russian flights were already effectively barred from U.S. destinations for the most part in recent days because of bans on the use of Canadian and European airspace.

The hardest hit is likely to be Russian carriers, which make up approximately 70% of the flights between Russia and the EU

Some foreign governments had privately questioned why the United States did not move faster to ban Russian planes, as had some U.S. lawmakers.

The European Union had said on Tuesday that it was speaking to U.S. counterparts about extending the ban as it gave more details of the EU’s closure of airspace to Russian aircraft imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Airlines already face potentially lengthy blockages of key east-west flight corridors after the EU and Moscow issued tit-for-tat airspace bans. 

The United States will follow the European Union in banning Russian flights from its airspace

Global supply chains, already hit hard by the pandemic, will face increasing disruption and cost pressure from the closure of the skies which will affect over a fifth of air freight. The hardest hit is likely to be Russian carriers, which make up approximately 70% of the flights between Russia and the EU.

Transport between Europe and North Asian destinations like Japan, South Korea and China is in the front line of disruption after reciprocal bans barred European carriers from flying over Siberia and prevented Russian airlines from flying to Europe.

Airlines responsible for moving around 20% of the world’s air cargo are affected by those bans, Frederic Horst, managing director of Cargo Facts Consulting, told Reuters on Tuesday, March 1.

Indian carriers have joined hands to evacuate Indian nationals from Ukraine

Major Asian carriers like Korean Air Lines and Japan’s ANA Holdings are still using Russian airspace, however, as are Middle Eastern airlines and Indian carriers.

Russian airlines are also feeling the pinch with airline Pobeda, state airline Aeroflot’s low-cost carrier, facing requests from several leasing companies to return their planes, the Interfax news agency reported. 

Pure cargo carriers like Russia’s AirBridgeCargo Airlines and Luxembourg’s Cargolux are subject to the bans in a move that could send air freight rates – already elevated due to a lack of passenger capacity during the pandemic – soaring further.

Shipping container shortages and port bottlenecks mean more products are being flown by air.

In December, air cargo rates were 150% above 2019 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association. Sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its Ukraine invasion are expected to further disrupt global supply chains.

Russia’s AirBridgeCargo alone moves just under 4% of global international air cargo, with most of that between Europe and Asia, Horst said.

Shipping container shortages and port bottlenecks mean more products are being flown by air. Demand for air cargo last year was 6.9% above 2019 levels, according to IATA.

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