Russian Airlines and aircraft are currently facing a ban from the EU and Canadian airspace. The United States is also imposing a similar ban on all Russian aircraft. In response to the ban, Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all European Union member states, in a tit-for-tat move. Commercial airlines are also avoiding airspace around Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus.
Aeroflot's Eight-hour flight to nowhere
On Sunday, February 27, 2022, Aeroflot was operating flight SU124 from Moscow to New York. The Boeing 777-300ER with registration VP-BHA departed from Moscow at 3:55 PM, with a delay of one and a quarter-hour.
The Boeing 777 flew over Finland, Sweden, and was heading towards Greenland when the crew decided to return to Moscow as Russian flights were banned from entering the Canadian airspace. The flight then diverted to Moscow, performing an eight-hour flight to nowhere. The flight was routed to fly over Canada on the standard northerly route. However, the EU and Canada decided to ban Russian flights from their airspace the same day. The Canadian government has banned all Russian-owned, chartered, or operated aircraft from entering its airspace, including territorial waters.
"Effective immediately, Canada's airspace is closed to all Russian aircraft operators. All of Canada is united in its outrage of President Putin's aggression against Ukraine. In response, we have closed Canadian airspace to Russian-owned or operated aircraft. The Government of Canada condemns Russia's aggressive actions and we will continue to take action to stand with Ukraine."Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra
Aeroflot violated Canadian Airspace
On Sunday, Transport Canada confirmed that an Aeroflot flight from Miami violated a ban on Russian operators. The flight SU111 from Miami to Moscow flew over Canadian airspace for around five hours after the ban was imposed.
"We are aware that Aeroflot Flight 111 violated the prohibition put in place earlier today on Russian flights using Canadian airspace."Transport Canada
Transport Canada said that it would launch an investigation into the conduct of Aeroflot's flight 111 and Canada’s air-traffic control service provider Nav Canada following the airspace breach. However, Nav Canada has confirmed to Reuters that flight 111 entered the Canadian Airspace. The aircraft operator reportedly declared the flight as a humanitarian flight, thus requiring special handling by air traffic control.
"We are currently cooperating with Transport Canada to investigate the occurrence, and are working with neighbouring Air Navigation Service Providers to support rerouting of aircraft prior to them entering Canadian-controlled airspace."Nav Canada
US Bans all Russian Aircraft
The United States is also imposing a ban on all Russian aircraft from entering its airspace, effective by the end of Wednesday. All major US carriers have already suspended flying over Russian airspace.
"I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy."President Joe Biden
Avoid Flying over Russian Airspace
Airlines are re-routing their flights to avoid flying over the Russian airspace. Multiple Airlines, including Finnair, has suspended a number of flights that they used to operate over Russian airspace. Finnair has cancelled all flights, including cargo flights to Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, until further notice.
However, the United States has not imposed a ban on Russian operators, although it has advised its citizens to leave Russia immediately, citing the airspace restrictions and flight cancellations.