Russia’s civil aviation authority has banned British airlines from flying to the county and crossing its airspace in retaliation to a UK ban on Aeroflot flights.
In a statement, Rosaviatsiya said the measure was in response to “unfriendly decisions” taken by London.
“This measure was taken in accordance with the provisions of the Intergovernmental Air Services Agreement between Russia and the UK as a response to unfriendly decisions by the UK aviation authorities regarding the restriction on regular flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with Russia or registered in Russia,” the agency said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Feb. 24 banned Russia’s national airline Aeroflot from operating routes to and from the country and using its airspace. The measure was part of sanctions introduced following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
British Airways (BA) has said it is now avoiding Russian airspace for overflights and canceled its London Heathrow (LHR)-Moscow Domodedovo (DME) service on Feb. 25. The oneworld alliance member added it would also reroute its flights to destinations in Asia.
According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, Aeroflot served London Heathrow daily from Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) using a mix of aircraft type. BA offered a 3X-weekly LHR-DME route onboard Airbus A321neos.
In total, the two carriers were this week (w/c Feb. 21, 2022) due to operate a combined 5,220 two-way seats between Moscow and London. There are currently no other scheduled services between the UK and Russia.
As well as affecting direct flights between the UK and Russia, Rosaviatsiya’s decision to close its airspace to British airlines will impact passenger and cargo services between the UK and Asia, limiting options to the Far East and India.
Data from flight tracking platform FlightRadar24 shows that between Delhi (DEL) and London Heathrow, BA flight BA142 and Virgin Atlantic’s VS303 each took a southern route early on Feb. 25 to avoid Russian airspace. Each flight normally overflies Russia en route to London.
Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, air traffic in Eastern Europe has been severely impacted. Although the situation remains fluid, Ukraine and Moldova have closed their airspace, while Belarus has banned flights over part of the country.
OAG data shows that Ukraine International Airlines was scheduled to operate 15,251 departure seats across 107 flights from and within Ukraine this week. Ryanair was scheduled to offer more than 30,000 departure seats, while Wizz Air had in excess of 21,000 available.
Wizz said on Feb. 24 it was trying to evacuate its remaining aircraft and crew from Kyiv and Lviv.