Russia flexes muscles with Lufthansa via Swiss

LUFTHANSA-owned Swiss International Air Lines has made a deal with Russia to allow it to use Russian airspace for one of its Asian-bound flights again. This is after having been losing many of its overflight rights at the end of March.
The carrier only admitted at the end of May that Russia had withdrawn its overflight rights two months earlier. Since then, negotiations have apparently been at reinstating those rights for Swiss, but opinion suggests the ban was really aimed at Lufthansa with the intention of gaining European slots for Aeroflot.
Hansjörg Bürgi, of the Swiss aviation journal, says: “The Russians would like to have more traffic rights into Europe and that’s the pressure they now put on Lufthansa and it’s subsidiary Swiss.
“I think they are not targetting Swiss itself, because Aeroflot is flying to Zurich and Geneva, they can also fly into Basle, so I think they cannot have more traffic rights into Switzerland and so I think they want to put more pressure on the whole Lufthansa Group.”
In 2007, Russia forced Lufthansa Cargo to move from its refuelling base in Astana (Kazakhstan) over the border to Krasnoyarsk (Russia) by making exactly the same bans and then capitulations.
Long-term rights for Austrian, now also a Lufthansa subsidiary, are also facing uncertainty due to Russia’s demands.
Of course, such demands are nothing new and are certainly not limited to Russia. China and countries within Africa have made similar ultimatums, but Russia’s geographical position between Europe and Asia allows it to leverage these ‘agreements’.
“They can do it, it’s their airspace,” says Bürgi. “It’s not very friendly and it’s not very globally oriented, but they can do it.”

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