Civil aviation operations have been progressively impacted as the diplomatic situation between Ukraine and Russia rapidly deteriorates.
Because insurers refuse to cover flights via Ukraine, local airlines are forced to cancel some of their flights. For the time being, the airspace remains open to commercial flights.
These heightened tensions bring to mind the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, which killed 283 people. Many airlines have avoided the area since that awful tragedy.
With the fighting resuming, numerous airlines have opted to halt flights to Kyiv and change their routes to avoid flying across Ukrainian territory.
KLM, the Dutch flag carrier, was the first to notify that all flights to Boryspil International Airport (KBP) in Kyiv, Ukraine, will be suspended until further notice on February 12, 2022.
“This decision follows the adjusted travel advice to code red and an extensive safety analysis,” the air carrier explained.
Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), Germany’s flag carrier, is also allegedly considering canceling flights to Kyiv.
British Airways, which does not fly directly to Ukraine, appears to have altered its Asian itineraries to avoid Ukrainian airspace from either the north or south.
Ukrainian carrier SkyUP flight PQ902 from Madeira, Portugal, to Kyiv was forced to detour to Chisinau, Moldova, later that day. Deucalion Aviation, an Irish lessor founded in 2021 as a spin-off from DVB Bank, has prohibited its aircraft from entering Ukraine.
“Despite all the efforts of the airline and the willingness of government agencies of Ukraine to contact the lessor, the owner of the aircraft flatly refused just at a time when the aircraft was already flying to Kyiv,” the airline said in a statement.
Insurance companies have told Ukrainian aviation carriers that as of February 14, 2022, they will no longer insure aircraft flying in Ukrainian airspace. As a result, leased planes will be flown out of Ukraine.
Ukraine International Airlines, for example, was compelled to store five Boeing 737-800 planes in Spain. Two other planes were also dispatched to Serbia for early maintenance.
No closed airspace for now
Ukraine’s authorities have stated that the country’s airspace will remain open.
“Closing the airspace is a sovereign right of Ukraine and no decision has been taken in this direction,” Mustafa Nayyem, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, stated on his Facebook page.
Boryspil International Airport management reported that operations would continue normally, “ensuring security and a high level of aviation security in full”.
To try to lessen the impact, the Ukrainian government agreed to use monies from the state budget’s reserve fund to cover the cost of insurance for aircraft in the country’s airspace.
“For this purpose, in agreement with the Budget Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the amount of the reserve fund of the State Budget was increased by UAH 16.6 billion ($581 million).
According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure, “the granted funds cover insurance cases for at least 23 airplanes.” The repatriation of Ukrainian people from abroad will be a top priority for those planes.
According to the Ministry, 29 foreign carriers continued to travel from 34 countries as of February 13, 2022.
Wizz Air, a low-cost carrier, is one of them, with its timetable remaining intact.
“Wizz Air continues to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine,” the air carrier told Reuters. Similarly, Ryanair continues to carry out several daily flights to both Kyiv and Odessa.
Air France not only maintains two weekly flights between France and Ukraine, but according to flightradar24, it has expanded capacity by employing Airbus A321 aircraft instead of A319 aircraft.
Given its competitors’ schedule delays, the French flag carrier may see an increase in demand.