In a move which escalates tensions between Belarus and her allies and the European Union, Russia blocked Air France from using Russian airspace in order to avoid Belarusian airspace. Air France responded by cancelling the flight.
Russia Blocks Air France From Using Russian Airspace to Avoid Belarus
Air France 1154 was scheduled to fly from Paris (CDG) to Moscow (SVO) yesterday, departing at 10:20am. However, the flight ended up cancelling when Russia did not approve an alternate flight plan that bypassed airspace over Belarus.
The European Union has advised EU carriers to avoid using Belarusian airspace, when possible, after the state-sponsored hijacking of a Ryanair flight traveling from Athens (ATH) to Vilnius, Lithuania (VNO) on Sunday.
An Air France spokesperson explained the flight was canceled “for operational reasons linked to the bypassing of Belarusian airspace, requiring a new authorization from the Russian authorities to enter their territory.”
Passengers were rebooked on other airlines or on Air France’s Friday flight to Moscow, which it still plans to operate pending Russian acceptance of the alternative flight plan.
While Russia has not offered clarification on why it denied this change in routing, other Air France flights operated over Russian airspace without issue on Wednesday, including a Air France 1464 which operated from Paris to St. Petersburg (LED) without issue, even though it took a similar routing to avoid Belarusian airspace.
Air France 1154 was not the only flight forced to cancel on Wednesday. Belavia 2859 from Minsk (MSQ) to Barcelona (BCN) cancelled after Polish air traffic control warned the flight that it likely would not be able to enter French airspace.
The denial of Air France 1154’s routing request may have been triggered directly from the Belavia 2859 incident.
> Read More: The Problem With Banning Belavia From Europe
Per the recommendation of the European Counsel, Belavia has now been banned from flying to:
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
Russia appears to have responded in a tit-for-tat manner in support of its ally Belarus by stopping an Air France flight from rerouting in order to avoid Belarus.
As the Belavia flight ban widens, expect more incidents of this nature in the days ahead.
image: Air France