The Russian invasion of Ukraine has plunged Europe into the largest and bloodiest conflict it has seen since the end of World War II. And, as Vladimir Putin‘s troops continue to gather and push further west into Ukraine, there have been fears the already fragile travel industry, which was brought to its knees during Covid, will face yet more disruption.
Previously, we analyzed how U.S. visitors traveling in Europe could be affected as a result of the war. Unfortunately, this is now a reality, with several flights being canceled or re-routed this week, not only in Europe but in places as far as Asia. The U.S. has now issued travel advice for many European countries that border Ukraine.
As tensions grow, travelers may no longer be completely out of the woods, even after Omicron-related restrictions are lifted.
Travelers In Europe And Asia Face Cancellations As Russian Airspace Is Sealed Off
Earlier this week, the European Union and its NATO partners, which include the United States, have teamed up in banning Russian planes and flag-carriers from transiting their airspaces, including the popular Aeroflot, which served countless routes in Eastern Europe and beyond. In retaliation, Moscow has also banned 36 countries from its own airspace, sending the travel industry into a tailspin.
Because of that, East-West connectivity has essentially come to a standstill, with no commercial flights being available between Russia and a majority of destinations in Europe and North America. As a direct result, Germany’s Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Eurowings and Austrian Airlines canceled 30 flights to Russia alone this week.
Additionally, British Airways has also taken a huge hit, being forced to ax all of its Russia flights after Moscow issued a flight ban. Similarly, Air France suspended the entirety of its Russia service, as the West severs diplomatic ties to the country and hostilities become more common. These are just a few of several European airlines announcing changes to their schedule this week.
Unsurprisingly, the Old Continent is not the only one mourning losses, with Asia also being hit hard with cancellations amid the geopolitical imbroglio. Several flight routes to Asia have had to be slashed or re-routed as Russian airspace closes down and the U.S. allies condemn Russian military activity in Ukraine.
AirFrance has suspended all flights to China, Korea, and Japan, until more suitable routes are found that do not involve crossing Russian airspace. Finnish flag carrier Finnair made a similar move, cancelling popular flights to Seoul, South Korea (ICN), Osaka, Japan (KIX), Tokyo, Japan (NRT), Shanghai, China (PVG), and Guangzhou, China (CAN) until the end of March.
Across the pond, United Airlines was one of the first American carriers to enact changes, ending its use of Russian airspace and, as a result, axing two flight routes to India. Namely, flights to and from Mumbai and Delhi. In an official statement, the airline cited the “longer routes” resulting from the need to avoid Russia as a reason for halting the flights.
Avoiding Russia may also add considerable flying time on North America-Asia routes. As United’s competitor on the Delhi route, American Airlines frequently makes fuel stops in Bangor, Maine (BGR) when returning to Kennedy Airport. For now, we still do not know whether United is planning any such technical stops.
Passenger Flights Were Targeted In Russo-Ukrainian War Before
Western nations seem to be acting with increased caution, especially after the Russian-backed war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, which started in 2014 and resulted in an Amsterdam-Kuala Lampur commercial flight being shot down when flying over the Ukrainian-Russian border. All passengers and crew traveling on the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 were killed.
Over in Asia, Japan Airlines also either canceled or rerouted all flights to and from Europe, citing “safety concerns” regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The move will further limit connectivity between Asia and Europe, which was already threatened due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, yet to be declared finished even after two years.
Airlines are not the only ones having to adapt to the new world order: cruise lines have had to change their itineraries in order to skip Russia, as the Slavic nation becomes more and more isolated by the day. This means travelers hoping to hop off in the Russian port city of St. Petersburg will no longer be able to for a long while.
As the situation escalates, more flight disruptions and an even greater East-West divide are expected. For that reason, we recommend all our readers to purchase travel insurance covering Covid, and particularly flight cancellations before heading to Europe or Asia. Americans should also follow official travel advice for specific countries and make contingency plans when flying to Europe during the crisis.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories