American Airlines Is Diverting Flights To Avoid Russian Airspace

This situation seems to be escalating quickly, potentially for a variety of reasons. American Airlines has stopped using Russian airspace for their flights as of yesterday (April 14), which has caused some diversions.

Apparently Russian airspace rights for US airlines expire on April 17. There were supposed to be talks between the US State Department and Russia’s Ministry of Transport regarding airspace rights, though they’ve canceled these meetings, so it remains to be seen what will happen there. It’s not entirely clear whether these talks were canceled due to a disagreement and unwillingness to come to a consensus, or if they’re just not prioritizing it (which seems unlikely). In and of itself that shouldn’t be an issue yet, since it’s just April 15, so the rights haven’t yet ended.

Perhaps this issue has something to do with the US airstrikes in Syria, and Russia’s stance on it.

What’s happening? American Airlines has stopped using Russian airspace, which impacts some of their flights to China. In some cases this only leads to a marginally longer flight time, while in other cases it’s causing diversions.

For example, yesterday’s flights from Chicago to Beijing, Dallas to Beijing, and Dallas to Hong Kong, all diverted to Los Angeles, where they refueled and had a crew change.

As of now only American is rerouting their flights, while Delta and United haven’t had any diversions as of yet. It would appear as if American is just being extra cautious here, since there don’t yet seem to be any directives from the government on this topic.

It’ll be interesting to see how this situation unfolds over the coming days, especially with talks between the US and Russia regarding airspace rights not happening. This could resolve itself very quickly, or could we see all US airlines banned from Russian airspace, which could have huge impacts on some ultra longhaul routes?

This has the potential to be the next major international aviation “conflict,” which we seem to see an increasing number of lately.

We’ll mark this as “developing” for now…

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. Well, it seems Russian anti-aircraft systems only seem to work against commercial airliners. Cruise missiles and fighter jets…not so much.

  2. Lucky, you are a bit late mate!
    You are right, only AA TPAC are at the moment the only ones who have restrictions, self-implied or not. UA and DL are business as usual and are flying TPAC as if nothing as happened.

    If it is about the US-Russian airspace policy only, than only US carriers are involved and affected. But if it is a retaliation over the Syrian attacks through western allied forces..than British and French carriers should embrace themselves..especially the British ones..it is not only the bombing in Syrian, it is also about the Skripal cases looming around..

    For a while some people here are expressing themselves in loving long haul flights..Well, there you have it! In some cases you will have your long haul excess sooner than later! Enjoy!!

    What a small world we really have? When some situations occur, everyone is suddenly affected and being so diplomatically in their ways…

  3. Anerican gov officials say that russia is the enemy #1 and then you are not happy that there is no agreement for the air space.

  4. I noticed that FCO-DFW is blocked for a couple hours longer for the next few days and wondered if this was the reason for the routing change. It doesn’t entirely make sense, but neither does the route change. Weather appears to be fine.

  5. Russia dare not take on America directly. I think they will just slap the UK around. UK is everyone’s bitch.

  6. Quite interested to see how BA and AF deal with disruptions if they lose their overfly rights. I’m imagining BA routing everything via DOH with QR, or via HEL for Japanese flights. If AF loses its overfly rights, would KLM too? Could easily route everyone via AMS if not.
    This might be one of the few times when airline consolidation ends up having some positive ramifications for passengers.

  7. Does Russia lose out on money from this? If planes fly over their airspace they get paid for that? So not sure it’s in the best financial interest of them. I think AA is taking an abundance of caution. And you got to respect that after the Malaysia disaster. Makes sense they have a plan in place and started applying it so they know it will work.

  8. Could this actually be weather related? Prevailing winds making it difficult or reducing the margin of error, causing the divert?

    CX845 JFK-HKG and CX811 BOS-HKG both seem to have taken a NE route over Greenland and passing north of Europe rather than the usual “NW” route over Canada and passing north of Alaska.

    AA187, the ORD-PEK diverted to LAX is currently over Alaska and sure looks like it’s going to enter Russian airspace in a few minutes.

  9. This sort of reminds me of the Turkish visa situation last year. My guess is that Russia may use this issue as an indirect, passive-aggressive, punitive measure against the US. If that’s the case then they’ll want to draw it out for a few weeks so that US airlines feel the pain.

  10. @marsha

    Do you seriously think Russia care that much over how much money they will lose over a possible airspace restrictions..LOL..it is about power play and who could hold their breath longer.
    Lets hope that a Malaysian incident would not be an option in any case and never again!!

    But Russia should remember if they open Pandora’s box..it is not easy to close and the aftermath is a biblical proportion..

  11. What’s even more odd is that if you check out the flight path of AA263 (dfw-pek), it doesn’t seem to have actually avoided Russian airspace! AA281 managed without diversion, and ICN is not that far for PEK — I’m a bit surprised that the extra flight time to PEK puts it out of range for the 787.

  12. The Russian Duma is currently discussing a variety of potential responses to the latest round of US sanctions. One of the suggestions was to raise the fees for US aircraft for flying over Russia. So delaying the talks between the two countries and AA’s diversions are likely related to that.

  13. “There were supposed to be talks between the US State Department and Russia’s Ministry of Transport…”

    Several websites published the State Department org chart on Friday night after the Syria strikes. So many empty positions and no Secretary of State … gotta wonder if there is even staffing to handle negotiations such as this. Hope the MAGA crowd is pleased with what they got

  14. I love debit’s comment, when he wrote “UK IS EVERYONE’S BITCH”
    This is not a particularly funny site, but his comments had me on the floor.

  15. @steven M

    Avoiding Russian airspace is the right thing to do given the current geo political climate.
    Hopefully everything cools over. By the way this was all bought and paid for by the Clinton foundation and the Democratic National Convention. We have them to thank for the world currently being on the brink of WW3 with all of their lies and made up stories about Trump and Russian collusion with zero evidence whatsoever.

  16. The US accidentally shot down an Iranian commercial flight during warfare, as readers may recall, but provided generous compensation. The USSR intentionally shot down a commercial flight, and cared less. So the American flag carrier might well be acting prudently under the circumstances.

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