‘Headache’: Aviation expert shares potential risks of Europe closing airspace to Russia

Bridget Kendall discusses Russian media's handling of invasion

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There is speculation that the rest of Europe will follow suit and close their airspaces to Russia too. John Strickland, director of aviation for JLS Consulting revealed what this may mean for the future of air travel. 

Regarding the impact this decision would have globally, John said: “On the face of it, the impact will be that Russian airlines cannot fly into Europe.

“Of course, the UK already put such a ban in place last week.”

But the impact may be far greater than this, leading to retaliation and in turn, economic difficulty for both passengers and airlines.

“The bigger issue of course is probable retaliation. We saw that already in the case of the UK, Russia immediately put in place a ban on British carriers, not only flying into Russia, which is one issue, but flying in Russian airspaces,” he told BBC News.

John continued: “The more we see countries around the West of Europe and the EU in particular putting bans in place, we are likely to see a similar retaliation.

“At the moment, it’s not only a case of flying into Russian cities, the bigger issue is that Russian airspace is critical for flights to many parts of Asia from Europe.”

Providing the fastest geographic route, airlines naturally gravitate to this journey, but the recent hostility may throw this off balance.

John predicted this would give “massive headache” to airlines, as they would have to reroute their flights.

Consequently, a lot more cost would be added to the equation, what with more fuel being used per journey, as well as stopping for said fuel.

Just as the world gets ready to open back up and resume normal travel, what effect will this new threat have?

Both airlines and governments have, on the whole, been “cautiously hopeful” for increased travel this summer.

John predicted: “The strange saving grace right now is that because of the ongoing challenge of coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of Asia is closed off.”

Currently, China is “closed to international travel”.

But John stressed that it’s a “different matter with cargo.

He continued that if Asian countries progressively open up and the “evolving situation does not change”, there may be significant issues.

“It will become a much bigger issue in terms of the complication and question of customer confidence to travel and willingness to take flights which will be more expensive and longer.”

John also touched on the difficulties British Airways experienced yesterday, which forced the airline to cancel short-haul flights from Heathrow.

While there was speculation of a cyber-attack, BA reported that the issue was a technical fault.

However, with tensions rising, John predicted a “high degree of sensitivity” around the prospect of a cyber-attack.

This is because many industries are “IT reliant in every aspect”.

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