The recommendation to bypass Belarus is an additional complication for companies. But they are used to these kinds of restrictions.
What is the position of states and companies?
The European Union “recommended” the consortium companies to avoid the Belarusian airspace to punish the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, accused of diverting a European airliner to Minsk to arrest an opponent. Brussels also announced the closure of the European Union’s airspace to planes coming from Belarus, in coordination with the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Air France committed itself by announcing that it would suspend the passage of its aircraft over the country “until further notice” at night. Sister Dutch company KLM does the same, like many other European companies, such as Lufthansa, Finnair or SAS, or Asian companies, such as Singapore Airlines and ANA (Japan).
What are the corporate consequences?
Approximately 2,500 commercial aircraft fly on average each week in Belarusian airspace, according to Eurocontrol (European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation). This is a pace affected by the health crisis, which has resulted in particularly fewer long-haul flights.
Some planes continued to fly over Belarus on Tuesday morning, such as Russian companies connecting to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, a long-haul Chinese flight, or a Korean air cargo flight to Vienna, according to FlightRadar24. For contacts between Europe and Asia, bypassing Belarus would be a complication, which, however, would not be impossible, according to professionals in the aviation sector: the country is three times smaller than France, and many roads are possible. On these trips, it’s often dictated by the weather.
These ties must also, in the same region, deal with aviation restrictions imposed on a part of Ukraine, which is a scene of an underlying conflict between pro-Russian and pro-Russian loyalists. There was a Malaysia Airlines jumbo plane shot down in 2014, killing 298 people. According to the spokesman for the Japanese Afghan National Army, Takafumi Okubo, avoiding Belarus “will have limited consequences because there are so many ways.”
For shorter flights, the situation will be more difficult to manage, as evidenced by Hungary’s low-cost Wizz Air flight between Kiev and Vilnius Tuesday morning, which lasted 1 hour 32 minutes, compared to 57 minutes the previous Thursday, according to the site. specialized Flight Radar 24. The latter shows an important plane hook through Polish airspace.
What about Belarus?
Nearly a fifth of the 2,500 weekly flights over Belarus are operated by the national airline Belavia, which has a fleet of 30 aircraft, from the 100-seat Embraer 175 regional jet to the mid-range single-aisle Boeing 737-900. On Monday, Belavia operated 20 flights to or from EU airports and between 40 and 60 with a route that passes through European Union airspace, according to Eurocontrol, since many flights no longer exist. Belarusian finances could also be affected by drying up royalties that airlines pay for flying over the country.
There are precedents. As astounding as it is, especially in the context of a coordinated response by states to a hijacking initiated by an authoritarian regime, the avoidance of airspace, dictated by security or policy issues, is far from exceptional. Sovereign states to prohibit overflights or issue an Aeronautical Information Notice (AIC) related to restrictions on flying over sensitive areas, based on feedback from the field and information received from outside intelligence services.
Nearly four years ago, Qatar Airways had to bypass the Arabian Peninsula to reach Europe and America due to the Saudi-imposed boycott. Its aircraft were able to resume the Luxor route in early January. In recent weeks, the firing of Hamas rockets into the Tel Aviv area has led the Israeli authorities to divert aircraft to the south of the country. The Syrian, Libyan, Yemeni and Iraqi airspace, the theater of armed operations, are also areas that have been bypassed by commercial flights.