Russian aircraft are being cut off from a growing patch of European airspace in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia have all announced bans today on Russian airlines using their airspace. The four countries join Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and the UK in denying access to both their airports and skies.

“No place for planes of the aggressor”

Estonia’s Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, commented on the move: “There is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies.”

The latest bans are likely to result in retaliatory bans from Russia, following their earlier ‘tit-for-tat’ ban on British aircraft entering its airspace. The Kremlin has since banned planes from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland from flying over or landing on its soil.

The latest embargos leave Russian carriers with increasingly diminishing flight path options for aircraft wishing to enter or pass through western Europe and has led to some taking lengthy detours.

Before the Baltic states introduced their own bans, Flightradar24 tracked an Aeroflot flight taking a detour of just over an hour over northern Europe on a flight between Moscow and Budapest. If the airline continues to operate the route, the detour is now guaranteed to be longer still.

Longer flight times inevitable

British Airways said earlier that rerouting planes will lead to longer flight times and higher fuel costs, but didn’t comment on whether this would be passed down to consumers. However, the impact of the bans on European carriers has been lessened by the lower than normal demand for flights to Asia, as many Asian countries still impose strict travel restrictions.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle
British Airways boss Sean Doyle played down the impact of airspace bans | © British Airways

BA, itself previously offering multiple daily flights to China and Japan, currently has no services operating in the region.

Azerbaijan’s air navigation services provider, AZANS, has opened up alternative air traffic routes intended to minimise detour times for those seeking to avoid Russian airspace. It is hoped that this will mitigate further disruption for airlines operating in the region, but the extent to which it does is still unknown.

Will airlines be able to adjust to the decrease in available airspace? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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