Several airlines have reported that Russia does not authorise flights that avoid the airspace of ally Belarus. Austrian Airlines announced on Thursday that a flight from Vienna to Moscow had to be cancelled. The Russian Ministry of Transport did not respond.
Austrian has suspended flights over Eastern European Belarus, following the opinion of the European Aviation Safety Agency. “A change of the escape route must be approved by the authorities. The Russian authorities refused to grant us this authorisation,” said the Austrian airline against press agency AFP.
Earlier, Air France also reported a similar occurrence. A flight to Moscow could not continue on Wednesday because Russia refused to approve the flight plan. At that time, there seemed to be no complete Russian blockade of aircraft that are out of the way of Belarusian airspace. Other flights to Russian destinations could continue.
KLM says that it has not heard of a closure of Russian airspace for airlines that are avoiding Belarus. The airline says that about fifteen KLM flights fly over Russia every day. According to a spokeswoman, this is “dependent on several factors, such as the weather.”
The unrest in Europes airspace follows the arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich in Belarus. He was actually on the plane from Greece to Lithuania, but the Belarusian authorities had his flight diverted to Minsk. There would have been a bomb threat. Email provider Proton Technologies later informed that the mail with that threat was not sent until the flight had already been redirected.
Belarus received much international criticism due to the arrest of Protasevich. New European sanctions are threatened, and some countries are taking measures against the Belarusian airline Belavia. He says it had to stop flights to European destinations such as Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and even the Russian enclave Kaliningrad.
There are hundreds of planes flying over Belarus every day. According to the European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol, 261 flights flew to or from the area covered by Eurocontrol on Wednesday. “That was 118 flights less than the same day a week earlier.”