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Belavia forced to shrink network as European flight ban continues

written by Hannah Dowling | May 28, 2021

Belavia and Air Lease Corporation signed a deal for four Boeing 737 MAX jets in July 2018 (Belavia)

Belavia, the national carrier of Belarus, has been forced to cancel a slew of regularly planned flights to numerous countries as the European Union continues to impose airspace restrictions, following Sunday’s ‘hijacking’ of a Ryanair flight by Belarusian authorities.

The European Union, along with the UK, have closed their airspaces to Belarusian carriers, most heavily impacting the country’s one international commercial carrier Belavia.

The EU and UK have also both encouraged airlines not to fly through Belarusian airspace, as nations sanction the country due to its decision to unlawfully land the Ryanair flight in Minsk, in order to detain a wanted political journalist who was onboard.

Most recently, neighbouring country Poland actively closed its airspace to Belarus, making it extremely difficult for Belavia to perform any of its short-haul international routes.

Belavia announced in a statement on Thursday that it was forced to cancel all flights to 12 cities across eight countries, until 30 October, “due to flight bans from a number of countries”.

Affected destinations included Warsaw, Milan, Amsterdam, Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and Kaliningrad.

These destinations joined a growing list of countries affected by flight bans, including the UK, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and the Ukraine, which has forced Belavia to similarly cancel all scheduled flights to these destinations.


“We regret that our passengers have to face this situation for reasons beyond the airline’s control,” Belavia said in the statement.

Other nations in the region are expected to enforce similar sanctions on Belarus, with Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas recently stating that the nation will ban Belavia from landing at Estonian airports.

While severely affecting Belavia, the flight bans have also caused some logistical problems for airlines travelling through Europe, particularly in light of growing tensions between Russia, Belarus’ biggest ally, and the rest of the continent.

Russia obviously boasts an extremely vast airspace that spans from Europe to Asia, making it an important thoroughfare for most medium-to-long-haul airlines.

Since the introduction of the Belarusian flight ban, Russia has ultimately led to the cancellation of two flights attempting to land in Moscow, and do so by avoiding Belarus – requiring a clearance from Russia to perform an alternate, less-direct route.

On Wednesday, an Air France flight attempted to revise its flight plan on its Paris-Moscow route to avoid Belarus, while the next day, an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna-Moscow attempted to do the same.

Both were denied clearances from Russia to enter Russian airspace and perform alternate routes before their scheduled landing in Moscow.

“A change in flight routes must be approved by the authorities,” said a spokesman for Lufthansa-owned Austrian Airlines. “The Russian authorities did not give us this permit.”

Air France has cancelled a second Paris-Moscow flight scheduled for Friday after Russia failed to respond to another flight plan submission, the airline said.

Other Air France-KLM and Lufthansa flights continue to cross Russian air space and serve destinations in the country unimpeded, both airline groups said, and Lufthansa has successfully rerouted Frankfurt-Moscow flights around Belarus.

Reports suggest that Belarusian authorities flagged a false bomb threat onboard Ryanair flight 4978 bound for Lithuania on Sunday, and sent a fighter jet to instead escort the plane to Minsk in order to detain a journalist who opposed the Belarusian government.

The plane, carrying around 170 people from 12 countries, was just minutes away from crossing into Lithuanian airspace when it was suddenly diverted to the Belarusian capital, escorted by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet.

Upon landing, authorities took journalist Roman Protasevich into custody.

The move was heavily criticised by nations and industry bodies, and has been labelled by many as a “hijacking” or “act of piracy”.


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