Supply chains face extension of airspace closures

By Damian Brett

Photo: Shutterstock

The European Union (EU) has closed its airspace to Russian aircraft as sanctions continue to be imposed in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

Yesterday, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that all aircraft owned, operated and controlled by Russian entities would be banned from entering EU airspace.

Several EU member states, the UK, Norway, Iceland, North Macedonia and Canada had previously announced restrictions, while Ukrainian airspace closed last week.

Russia has been responding with tit-for-tat measures imposed.

The airspace bans will mean extended flying times and higher costs for air cargo operations while services are also likely to be changed and cancelled for short notice.

In a customer advisory, Scan Global Logistics said: “Overall we expect the current situation will trigger a certain level of capacity constraint across transport modes, as well as pressure on freight rate levels, including oil price increases.

“The most awaited development is the potential closure of Russian airspace as a response from Russia to the EU sanctions imposed. For now, it is unclear if this will happen or not.

“Another unknown factor is the imposed sanction of excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system. It could ultimately lead to further impact if industry players grow concerned about getting payment for offered services.”

Two of the airlines that will be hit the hardest are those of Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group: AirBridgeCargo and Volga-Dnepr.

The group declined to comment on the situation but its Asia-Europe operations will clearly be affected.

FlightRadar24 shows that AirBridgeCargo has been carrying out several flights between Asia and Russia in recent days. It has also operated flights to the US.

The carrier’s last operations in the European Union, where it operates hubs at Frankfurt and Liege, took place on February 27 as it moved aircraft out of the region.

In a statement, the Volga-Dnepr Group said: “The Volga-Dnepr Group’s shareholders and management monitor the situation, the course of events and response of countries’ governments where the Group operates to guarantee fulfilment of its obligations towards customers, suppliers and employees considering the current circumstances and tackling the issues as and when they arise.”

Other airlines have also issued updates. In an update on Twitter, Lufthansa Cargo said: “Due to the ongoing dramatic developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Lufthansa Cargo will no longer use Russian airspace. Passenger airline flights to Russia will be suspended.

“Lufthansa Cargo will fly around Russian airspace via a southern routing.This will make adjustments to the flight schedule and payload unavoidable. The developments are currently too dynamic to fully anticipate them. On our website, we will keep you informed about daily changes to our flight schedule.”

The BBC reports that as a result of the sanctions Virgin Atlantic has suspended its four-times-per week cargo-only flights between Heathrow and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the carrier has altered some flight routes between the UK, Pakistan and India, extending flying times by between 15-60 minutes.

British Airways said it had cancelled flights to Moscow and had re-routed operations to Delhi and Singapore around Russian airspace.

Access to Russian airspace is particularly important for services between Europe and the Asia Pacific region, as the most efficient flight paths usually involve crossing the vast expanse of Siberia.

Sanctions will also affect aviation operations in other ways. The European Commission has prohibited Russian airlines from acquiring aircraft, spares and equipment. It also banned the leasing of aircraft to Russian entities.

UK and Russia impose airspace bans on each other

Ukrainian airspace closes while impact on trade expected

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