Several international airlines, “that continue to do business with Russia” and are flying to the US from countries are facing the possibilities of having to take longer routes after senators called for a ban on use of Russian airspace.
In a rare display of bipartisan collaboration in Washington, a Democrat and a Republican, have written to the secretary for transportation and secretary of state asking for a ban.
According to them, the current situation puts US carriers at a disadvantage as they are prohibited by Moscow from using Russian airspace, forcing them to take longer routes to a string of international destinations, such as cities in China.
Lufthansa Cargo admitted over a week ago to sources that additional flying time required to go around Russian airspace has cost it the capacity equivalent of 1.6 freighters.
Last year Cathay Pacific routed a flight from New York to Hong Kong over the Atlantic and Europe that took 17 hours – two hours more than the direct ‘Polar route’ over Siberia.
Russia has not barred Asian airlines from its airspace, but most of them have opted for longer routes, citing safety concerns. International airlines that are operating through Russian airspace are predominantly from China, India and the Middle East. Emirates is reportedly using this routing for its flights to New York and the US west coast.
Cathay Pacific shifted away from the direct route last March but announced in October that it would resume flying on the original route, citing shorter travel time for passengers, better payload and no need to change crews.
If the US administration were to agree the proposal, presumably many of the affected airlines would adopt a longer routing to continue serving the US market, although the tension between Washington and Beijing suggests Chinese carriers might suspend their US flights.
Passenger flights between the two nations are currently still hamstrung by flight restrictions implemented during Covid.