Lufthansa has become the latest major carrier to suspend its services to Ukraine, in the wake of the mounting tensions in the region. The move comes after Dutch flag carrier KLM suspended its own services last week and Norwegian Air Shuttle confirmed its aircraft would no longer use Ukrainian airspace.
The German flag carrier announced on its website that it is temporarily suspending all flights to and from Kyiv from Monday 21 February 21 until Monday 28 February.
Austrian Airlines, also owned by the Lufthansa Group, jointly announced the suspension of its own services to Kyiv, as well as Ukraine’s third-largest city, Odesa.
Separately, Turkish Airlines has been offering travellers the option to return or exchange tickets for flights to Ukraine.
Announcements point to shared concerns
Carriers flying over Europe are accustomed to avoiding unsafe airspace but these almost concerted announcements to withdraw services point to a clear and shared concern by airlines of a danger to life. Most remain reluctant to run the risk of a repeat of the downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, deemed to be caused by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.
The latest decisions by airlines likely follow too from insurers’ announcement last week that coverage would not be extended to cover war-related risks. The subsequent allocation of millions of dollars by the Ukrainian government to reassure operators may not provide sufficient assurance.
Some flights scheduled purely for evacuation purposes
Some airlines have scheduled flights with the sole purpose of evacuating their citizens. Air India, for example, said there was a “massive” demand for flights for its citizens.
Despite talk that Russia was winding down the number of armed units on its border with Ukraine, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says latest intelligence suggests Russia is intending to launch an invasion imminently that will surround the capital Kyiv – “All the signs are that the plan has already in some senses begun.”
Is it only a matter of time before other airlines withdraw their services from Ukraine? Let us know what you think in the comments below.