Europe and Canada said on Sunday they would close their airspace to Russian airlines following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increasing pressure on the United States to do the same.
“We are closing EU airspace for Russians,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said his country is closing its airspace to all Russian planes to hold the country accountable for an unprovoked attack on its neighbor.
The European Union’s action came after many of its member countries said they would block Russian planes or plan to do so by Sunday night.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted that European skies are “open to those who connect people, not those who try to brutally attack”.
“There is no place in Dutch airspace for a regime that uses unnecessary and brutal force,” said Mark Harbers, the Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and Waterworks, on Twitter.
A handful of European nations, including Spain, Greece and Turkey, had resisted closing their airspace prior to von der Leyen’s announcement.
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant in New York, said the moves by the European Union and Canada would put additional pressure on the US to also ban Russian flights.
“It’s hard to understand why we’re the last to move, both operationally and financially,” he said.
Russia has responded with a flight ban from several European countries. Russian airline S7 has suspended flights to Europe. On Sunday afternoon US time, a Moscow-New York flight operated by Russia’s national airline Aeroflot turned around after overflying Norway, according to flight tracking services. The plane had been destined to fly over Canada.
Rising tensions between Russia and Western nations over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have so far had only a modest impact on airlines trying to recover from huge losses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Airlines in the US and Europe expect to fill planes with transatlantic vacationers this summer. Helane Becker, airline analyst at Cowen, said on Friday that she expects continued strong demand for travel from the US to Western Europe, but travel to Eastern Europe “will be restricted until there is a solution or an assurance that it will not be restricted to.” will spread to other countries.”
Global tensions are already costing some airlines more money to reroute flights. An American Airlines flight from Delhi to New York has stopped in Bangor, Maine, for refueling because its new route, which passes south of Russia, is longer.
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for Flightradar 24 tracking service, said “dozens” of cargo flights from Anchorage, Alaska, which would normally fly via eastern Russia, are being diverted. “They will take a fuel penalty,” he said.
Mann, the aviation consultant, estimates that passenger flights that need to be diverted could cost anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 an hour, depending on the size of the plane and the price of fuel.
“Some routings just become uneconomical or impractical,” he said.
Cargo airline FedEx said Sunday it had temporarily suspended flights to Russia. The company said in a statement that it continues to provide services within Russia and between Russia and other countries “where conditions allow.”
Last week, shortly after the Russian invasion, Delta Air Lines suspended a partnership with Aeroflot in which the airlines sold each other seats on the flights.
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.