Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who announced sweeping import bans on products from many western countries including Norway on Thursday, also said the country was forbidding Ukrainian airlines from using Russian airspace and may ban European airlines as well.
That would severely disrupt airline traffic between Europe and Asia and affect several routes operated by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian Air, the main carriers in and out of Norway.
Economic sanctions imposed by the EU and US against Russia, in response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, have forced Russia’s low-fare carrier Dobrolyot to halt all its because it lost several contracts with European carriers. Now Russia is considering retaliation in the form of bans on such airlines as SAS, Norwegian, British Airways, Finnair, Lufthansa and Air France from flying over Russian territory. That would affect several busy routes between Europe and Asia.
“It’s difficult to avoid flying over Russia on long-distance routes from Europe to Asia,” airline analyst Anders Lidman of Aierpol told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). At the very least, airlines would face having to cancel flights or pay much higher fuel costs to fly around Russia. Airline stocks took a dive on the first reports earlier this week of airspace closure in Russian newspaper Vedomosti, and then Medvedev referred to such a move on Thursday when announcing import bans on a variety of food products from Norway, the EU, the US, Canada and Australia.
SAS runs three flights over Russia to Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo, and also flies to Moscow and St Petersburg. Norwegian also flies to St Petersburg and has a seasonal flight to Dubai over Russian airspace. Norwegian’s new long-distance flights to Bangkok were unlikely to be affected.