The crisis in Ukraine is ensuing with an ever-increasing area considered out of bounds for commercial civilian flights. Ukraine, Moldova and parts of Belarus are considered closed of for flying.
In addition, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have doubled an increasing security alert expanding the warning for airlines and other civilian operators from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles of the Ukrainian border with Russia due to fears that mid-range missiles could penetrate into controlled airspace. The EASA have also stressed that airline operators should exercise extreme cation.
The EASA has stated that there is a risk of both intentional targeting as well as misidentification of civil aircraft. They have added that the presence and possible use of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.
As a result of the airport closures as well as military airplanes going dark acting as an additional deterrent (night camouflage in order that they are hidden from the enemy), the airspace over Ukraine and its border is empty, according to flight tracking websites as stated by CNN.
An Israel Airlines flight bound for Toronto made a quick U Turn out of Ukrainian airspace early last Thursday, as shown by the tracking website FLightRadar 24. A plane operated by LOT Polish Airlines bound for Kyiv turned around and so did Kyiv bound flights operated by Air India and Aegean Airlines according to Reuters news agency.
According to CNN, the US government is expanding the area around Ukraine where American pilots are banned from flying. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has suggested that the no fly region will cover the entire country of Ukraine, the entire country of Belarus and the western portion of Russia. These restrictions would not obviously apply to military operations.
Prior to this update the FAA has prohibited flying only in the eastern half of Ukraine since 2014. Presumably this is due to the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 when 298 people were killed, although admittedly no US airlines operate flights to or from Ukraine.
The US has been advising its citizens not to travel to Ukraine since January due to ongoing tension along the border with Ukraine, the potential for harassment of US citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia as well as Covid and other factors. This advice was updated on Thursday telling US citizens not to fly to Ukraine due to armed conflict and Covid-19. It also warned that the US government would not be able to evacuate American citizens.
In addition to warnings form aviation organisations, there have also been limitations due to the effects of non-co-operation with Russian airlines due to sanctions imposed by the West in retaliations to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a result, Russia has also imposed counter measures against airlines restricting their travel.
The UK imposed a ban on the Russian airlines including its carrier Aeroflot preventing it from landing in the UK. Russia then imposed a counter ban on British airlines landing in Russia. Therefore, if anyone wants to still travel to Russia they would have to choose another airline and therefore most probably would have to travel via another country. However, given the animosity that exists between the West and Russia now it would probably be ill advised to do so.
As one can see there are no more limitations on air travel as a result of the Ukraine conflict. We have been advised by aviation authorities that it is not safe to travel to either Ukraine or Russia. In addition, flights to other parts have had to be diverted due to issues with entering Ukrainian airspace. To make matters worse, sanctions and counter sanctions have reduced the ability of people to travel. We have to hope that the crisis reduces so that people can continue to travel without restrictions.