Russia retaliated for the aviation sanctions imposed by the West. As a result the aviation industry in Europe and around the world faces new and unprecedented challenges.
Russia has closed its airspace for foreign flights from the so-called “unfriendly countries”, or the countries that closed their airspace for Russian airplanes.
When the war in Ukraine started the European Union, Canada, and the US closed their airspace for any aircraft registered in Russia or had any possible affiliation with the country. This triggered Russia’s reciprocal response.
Airlines in Europe being located the closest to Russian and Ukrainian airspace feel the effects of these measures the most. For example, Finnair travels mainly over Russia to reach Asia – a primary chunk of their market. The airline is based in Finland – a country that shares a border with the Russian Federation to the East
Currently, Finnair can not use the Russian airspace and has to fly around it. This in turn adds a lot of extra flying time which makes Finnair’s flights more expensive. More flying times results in more fuel consumption making such flights more expensive. The more expensive flights Finnair operates the less competitive the airline becomes.
European airlines that are based further North or South to the West on the continent are less affected. These airlines won’t need to make big changes to their flight plans in order to avoid Russian airspace. They can easily fly around it. In either case airlines still have to extend their flight time risking ticket prices for such flights to go up.
Countries that haven’t banned Russian flights can still access the airspace over Russia. For example, the Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific can fly over Russia. It gives the airline a definite market share advantage.
But airlines still suffer from yet another sanction. The exclusion of Russia from the international financial telecommunication payment system S.W.I.F.T…
Why is S.W.I.F.T. important for the airline industry?
For an airplane to travel over a country’s airspace it has to pay a fee to that country for using its airspace. Therefore, if Cathay Pacific wants to fly over Russia they have to pay a fee. But how would Cathay Pacific pay it when Russia has been excluded from the S.W.I.F.T. payment system? S.W.I.F.T. is used by airlines to pay such fees.
Even though Cathay Pacific technically can use Russian airspace, if they can’t pay Russia the fly-over fee, it cannot use this airspace. The airline has to fly around like other airlines do. As a result Cathay Pacific would suffer from the same consequences like all other airlines – longer flight time using more fuel leading to more expensive tickets.
It’s apparent that the war in Ukraine and the mutual sanctions caused a ripple effect in the aviation industry not only in Europe. As passengers we have to be aware of the sanctions and understand if the next time we book a flight it is a bit more expensive.