Mostly Symbolic Ban Of Russia From U.S. Airspace Still Ties Some Flights In Knots

President Biden is announcing tonight during the State of the Union address that the U.S. is closing its airspace to Russian aircraft.

This isn’t nearly as significant to Russia as the closure of European airspace, though it does mean that Russian carriers won’t be flying to the U.S. which was already made more difficult by the closure of Canadian airspace.

Avoiding Russian airspace, though not (yet) legally required, is already creating challenges for U.S. airlines. American’s New York JFK – Delhi flight frequently diverts because it never received Russia overfly rights. United has had to cancel San Francisco – Delhi:

On the whole the number of Russian flights affected by the U.S. decision – that weren’t already hindered by other airspace closures – will be limited. But some flights are going to be severely inconvenienced. Aeroflot’s Moscow – Cancun flight, for instance, regularly flies up and down the East Coast of the U.S.

Russian low cost carrier Nordwind flew Moscow – Cancun today and avoided both Europe and the U.S. and shows just how insane creative the routing becomes.


They make the flight using a Boeing 777-200ER. It’s not clear how long they and other Russian airlines will be able to maintain their fleets.

The airspace closures are inconvenient. Qatar Airways learned to deal with the closure of its surrounding airspace for an extended period. The lack of aircraft parts, though, is going to be challenging. I begin to worry for safety, as well, once parts begin getting sourced on the black and grey markets.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t fully agree with this move by Boeing and Airbus. It places innocent civilians at risk of flying on an aircraft that’s unsafe.

  2. I’m sure there were more than a few Ukrainian Cancun vacations cancelled too. Tough shit Russia.

  3. Does closing the airspace apply to emergencies as well? If it does, this plays havoc with ETOPS. If a plane needs to divert, is probably stuck there. Russian planes can’t pay for repairs, and probably true in the other direction for planes skimming Russia on the way from the US to Asia. This seems to be risky for an airline.

  4. @Ed Remember travelling via the equator is too long compared to flying aroud the tropics.

  5. Just returned from Cancun last week. Several Russians at our hotel and I am glad to never see their faces and poor behavior again.

  6. I think the Mexican tourism minister set a good example when the other day he welcomed Aeroflot’s continued operation there, and said that travel is “is synonymous with peace, friendship, and understanding between peoples”.

  7. Marco, Cancun would have no problem hosting Hitler, Stalin and Mao as long as their checks cleared (or they paid in gold)

  8. Well if anybody is being “inconvenienced” we should should surely cancel these actions against Russia.

    If anybody is worried about unsafe flights (because of a parts shortage) then maybe they should cancel their Cancun trip until Russia’s peacekeeping functions in Ukraine are over.

  9. World and US opinion is so against russia (I refuse to capitalize evil) that the foxtrotters over at fox news (ditto) are now backtracking about their favorite dictator putin (ditto). Even the great orange whale (ditto)(whatever happened to heart attacks killing old obese people?) is now telling lies about how he “strengthened” NATO, ha ha ha, so, all that bellyaching about NATO not paying their fair share helped? Uh, yes, in their resolve to not count on the United States while the gow was in charge.
    There have already been disciples of satan (ditto) on this site (a travel blog!) claiming nobody said nuttin”
    about the thing about the thing cough cough fox news cough cough orange whale. Carry on, minions.
    You will be judged for not following the words of JESUS: “help the least of me and you help me.”
    There’s no luggage racks on a hearse cough cough…..

  10. Can’t make this stuff up!

    I don’t fully agree with this move by Boeing and Airbus. It places innocent civilians at risk of flying on an aircraft that’s unsafe.


    You mean at greater risk than the innocent civilians already being shelled and killed in Ukraine by Mad Vlad, apparently your and other American rightwingnuts’ hero?

    I think the Mexican tourism minister set a good example when the other day he welcomed Aeroflot’s continued operation there, and said that travel is “is synonymous with peace, friendship, and understanding between peoples”.

    — Marco

    Like the peace, friendship and understanding that Russia is at this very moment expressing toward Ukrainian people very loudly with exploding bombs and tank and artillery fire?

  11. Turkish airspace is not closed to Russia. Heading home to Bali soon after my Jakarta quarantine. Keen to see whether the Russians are still there.

  12. Interesting that flights to places like Cancun, Cuba, and Punta Cana continued with that circular route around Scandinavia but all flights to the US were cancelled for past few days even though the US didnt yet outright ban Russian planes. Could have done similar kind of routing to JFK and Miami (Also that flight a few days ago from MIami that violated Canadian airspace ban could have followed this kind of routing too).

    My guess is they were afraid the US might impose an immediate ban while a flight is already in the air!

  13. Russia is about to become the next North Korea. Even China doesn’t want to deal with the nutcase Putin and his few supporters. Russia’s military is a joke and the move on Ukraine will only show how weak they truly are and continue to errod support.

    Russian tech is a joke, and Putin is not a sane person. Anyone in this country who supports him is a traitor (yes that’s you Trump).

  14. I also do not see the point of closing thus e US airspace to Russia as this would hurt more US-based airlines flying over Russia while keeping the routes open to Chinese and India competitors. Russia is still pumping hydrocarbons to Europe and getting Euros for that. If you really want to hurt putin, just refuse the Russian oil in Europe and he will have no way to sell it to someone else. And what we are doing? Cancelling Batman 2022 in Russia? Folks, it is time to get serious. Cancelling flight and movies alienates the ordinary Russians and only strengthens the putin’s message that the West is against the Russian folks (about 145 million in total), and he is the only savor. In hard times the young, talented, and capable will be leaving Russia in droves, thus, hurting the current regime even more. Setting up the iron curtain from our side is just what putin wants to keep his tight grip over a nation of 145 million.

  15. A bully will continue to bully until stopped. Putin is a bully. He has to be stopped or he will continue unimpeded. Why is Mexico allowing Russian planes to fly there? Any tourists with principles should avoid Mexico like the plague until this is changed. I personally like the Russian people I have had the privelege of meeting. But their government is a pariah and must be dealt with harshly. Any government that fails to take a stand against this unprovoked attack by Russian on the innocent people of the Ukraine should be treated as unfriendly to western values.

  16. To John H: Canada did allow an Aeroflot flight from Miami to Moscow to overfly due to a “humanitarian emergency”. Which in retrospect seems fishy — why wouldn’t they divert to somewhere in US or Canada if that was true? And in fact Canada later said it was bogus and they shouldn’t have allowed it.

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