Cathay Pacific To Again Overfly Russia On JFK Route

The carrier had stopped using polar routes to fly from New York to HKG after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Credit: Joe Pries

Cathay Pacific is resuming flights over Russian airspace, allowing it to use polar routes to reduce travel time on its flights from New York Kennedy (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG).

Cathay is one of multiple Asia-Pacific airlines that decided to stop Russian overflights in the wake of the Ukraine war. This has caused significant headaches for many airlines as they have switched to longer routes to avoid Russia.

There are already some other major airlines overflying Russia, Cathay said. The carrier stressed that there are no sanctions in place that prevent it from using Russian airspace. While carriers from the US and many European countries are prohibited from such overflights, the decision was voluntary for many Asia-Pacific airlines.

Cathay said it is “compliant with applicable sanctions regulations.” The airline noted that it will be crossing the far eastern part of Russia, a long way from the conflict zone in the west.

The carrier is currently using transpacific routes for its outbound flights from Hong Kong to JFK. The return leg departing New York has also mostly been using transpacific routes to HKG.

However, Cathay has occasionally used a different route for the return leg from New York, flying east over the Atlantic and then over parts of Europe. The airline said this can only happen in rare cases when seasonal jet stream winds and other conditions are in its favor.

From Nov. 1, Cathay will instead use polar routes for the return flight from JFK. This will allow it to “maximize the number of passengers and checked baggage carried onboard,” said Cathay. The airline has been having “payload issues” on its New York flights. 

Using the polar route will also eliminate the possibility of having to make a technical stop for a change of aircrew due to flight time limits. The need for such a stop has depended on the weather and headwinds on the day of flight, the airline said.