It was a simple yet powerful statement.
“We are shutting down the EU airspace for Russians,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
And with that, the 28 nations that make up the European Union, as well as the country of Canada, said Sunday they are closing their airspace to all Russian carriers.
The move is a financial and logistical penalty for Russia’s invasion last week of Ukraine.
— Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) February 27, 2022
Belgium has decided to close its airspace to all Russian airlines.
Our European skies are open skies. They’re open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress.
The decision had two immediate repercussions.
First, a flight on Russian national carrier Aeroflot en route from Moscow to New York had to turn back after apparently not having enough fuel to reroute due to the EU and Canadian decisions. According to the aviation blog One Mile At A Time, the flight would have normally flown over Finland, Sweden, Norway, Greenland and Canada before turning south to New York.
Second, the EU and Canadian declarations have put pressure on the United States to also close its airspace and further choke off Russian flights.
“It is difficult to understand why we are last to move, both operationally and financially,” aviation consultant Robert Mann told MarketWatch.
It could be fear of retaliation, as Russia has already banned flights from entering its airspace from several other countries, including the United Kingdom. On the other hand, business and international travel are still significantly down from 2019 levels due to the pandemic, so the impact of a U.S. decision to close its airspace is likely to be minimal in terms of volume.
Where it hurts is because of rising fuel costs.
Mann estimated that if airlines are forced to reroute or even stop somewhere on long-haul flights to refuel, it could cost between $4,000 and $12,000 per hour – costs that are passed on to the consumer via ticket prices.
“Some routings will simply become uneconomic or impractical,” he said.