After Russia launched an invasion on Ukraine on 24 February, countries throughout the EU and and as far as Canada and the US have since banned Russian flights from their airspace.
On 1 March, Ursula von der Leyen, President EU Commission, stated: “We are shutting down the EU airspace for Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft including the private jets of oligarchs.”
US airspace closure
Having held extensive talks with US airlines about the issue in recent days, the US Government has also imposed a ban on Russian aircraft in its airspace, which will take effect by the end of Wednesday 3 March. In his State of the Union address President Joe Biden said: “I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy.”
Reciprocal bans, which have so far barred European carriers from flying over Russia, are now expected to impact US airlines as well.
Global supply and air transport chains, already impacted by the pandemic, will face increasing disruption and cost pressure from the closure of the skies with transport between Europe and destinations such as Japan and China feeling the brunt of the disruption. The air cargo sector in particular is expected to be hard hit by the airspace closures with longer journeys and higher fuel costs.
Ahead of the US airspace closure Alaska’s Anchorage Airport reported last week that it had already received inquiries from airlines about capacity and available services in the event international routes were affected by the Ukraine crisis.
During the Cold War, when Western airlines were unable to access Russian airspace on routes from Europe to Asia, the airport was a popular refuelling hub for long-haul flights.
The Ukraine is now calling on NATO to impose a no-fly zone for Russian aircraft over Ukraine, however the US has ruled out enforcing such a measure.
Airports under attack
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s primary gateway Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv remains closed with explosions occurring around the airport. CNN reported last weekend that the airport was at the time largely undamaged with vehicles blocking the airport’s two runways and taxiways to prevent Russian aircraft from flying in.
Ahead of the Russian invasion, Oleksiy Dubrevskyy, Director General of Boryspil International Airport had released a statement on 22 February saying: “The airport staff, air carriers coordinated by the Ministry of Infrastructure, State Aviation Administration and UkSATSE have a joint action plan. If such a scenario takes place, it will be implemented according to a plan that has been developed a long time ago. It exists, and we can implement it any time.”
Zhuliany Airport in Kyiv – the country’s main business aviation hub – has also used vehicles to block its runway and remains largely intact, despite a missile attack on a residential building located close by, which was reported on 26 February.
Large explosions have also been reported at Odessa Airport (pictured right prior to the Russian invasion) with Russian warships seen near the coastal city, while Kharkiv Airport, Ivano-Frankivsk Airport and Zaporizhia Airport have also been targeted by missile strikes.
Situated close to the Polish border Lviv Airport appears to be operational still with Georgian cargo airline Easycharter landing there at the end of last week to provide humanitarian cargo to Ukraine. A statement issued by the airline and reported by Georgia Today on 26 February read: “We are proud to have contributed humanitarian aid to Ukraine during such a difficult time.
“At the Lviv Airport, we managed to deliver urgent humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people.
“We stand by our Ukrainian counterparts and the entire Ukrainian nation in defending their independence, freedom and democracy.”