The European Union is speaking to U.S. counterparts about extending a ban on Russian flights, it said on Tuesday, as it gave more details of the EU’s closure of airspace to Russian aircraft imposed after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Airlines already face potentially lengthy blockages of key east-west flight corridors after the EU and Moscow issued tit-for-tat airspace bans. Washington has not ruled out similar action.
A senior EU official, when asked if they were talking to the United States about it following the European ban, told reporters: “Yes, there are discussions with the U.S. on what measures they will adopt.”
The EU official said Russian oligarchs, even those with dual nationalities, would not be able to get around the EU airspace ban.
“It doesn’t matter whether they are EU residents, if they are Russian nationals, they will be covered,” the official said.
“Russian nationals or a Russian company cannot charter, own or control a plane that will be flying into the EU, out of the EU or overflying the EU. So that’s the rule.”
The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which has no direct land link to Russia, is not exempted from the shutdown of EU airspace, another European official told Reuters.
Global supply chains, already hit hard by the pandemic, will face increasing disruption and cost pressure from the closure of the skies which will affect over a fifth of air freight.
Hardest hit are likely to be Russian carriers, which make up approximately 70 per cent of the flights between Russian and the EU.
Transport between Europe and north Asian destinations like Japan, South Korea and China is in the front line of disruption after reciprocal bans barred European carriers from flying over Siberia and prevented Russian airlines from flying to Europe.
Airlines responsible for moving around 20 per cent of the world’s air cargo are affected by those bans, Frederic Horst, managing director of Cargo Facts Consulting, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France KLM, Finnair and Virgin Atlantic have already cancelled north Asian cargo flights over closed access to airspace.
Lufthansa Cargo will cut also some flights in the coming weeks after Russia’s airspace was closed off, a spokesperson for the German company said on Tuesday.
Scandinavian airline SAS said it would reroute its once-weekly Copenhagen-Shanghai service to avoid Russian airspace, and had also paused its Copenhagen-Tokyo service.
Major Asian carriers like Korean Air Lines and Japan’s ANA Holdings are still using Russian airspace, however, as are Middle Eastern airlines.
Russian airlines are also feeling the pinch with airline Pobeda, state airline Aeroflot’s low-cost carrier, facing requests from a number of leasing companies to return their planes, the Interfax news agency reported.
Pure cargo carriers like Russia’s AirBridgeCargo Airlines and Luxembourg’s Cargolux are subject to the bans in a move that could send air freight rates – already elevated due to a lack of passenger capacity during the pandemic – soaring further.
“The flights become more expensive due to the longer routes” said Stefan Maichl, analyst at Germany’s Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg.”
In December, air cargo rates were 150 per cent above 2019 levels, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its Ukraine invasion are expected to further disrupt global supply chains.
Russia’s AirBridgeCargo alone moves just under 4 per cent of global international air cargo, with most of that between Europe and Asia, Horst said.
“All up you could be looking at perhaps a quarter of air cargo between Asia and Europe needing to find alternate means of transportation,” Horst said.
“Yields are high enough that flying a longer route via Southeast Asia, South Asia or the Middle East is an option, but it will still pull capacity out of the market.”
Shipping container shortages and port bottlenecks mean more products are being flown by air. Demand for air cargo last year was 6.9 per cent above 2019 levels, according to IATA.
Taiwan’s EVA Airways said on Tuesday its cargo flights to and from Europe were operating normally and it would consider adding more services to meet market demand.
China Airlines, also based in Taiwan, said it would adjust its cargo capacity depending on the situation.
Asia-North America cargo routes are expected to be less affected than European routes, analysts say, because many carriers already use Anchorage, Alaska, as a cargo hub and stopover point.
Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co said on Tuesday they were keeping an eye on any disruption to supply chains as a result of what Russia calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.
U.S.-based United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp, two of the world’s largest logistics companies, have halted deliveries to Russia. Deutsche Post said its DHL unit was halting inbound shipments to Russia.
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