Russia allows US carriers to continue overflying its territory

Russia permits US carriers to continue overflying its territory Whilst the overflight issue was left pending, American Airlines re-routed three flights to Asia around Russian borders (Leonid Faerberg / Transport-Photo.com)

An official from the Russian Transport ministry has confirmed to Russian Aviation Insider that US carriers will be able to continue overflying Russian territory after April 19, 2018, the date when the current agreement, which governs the number of transit slots, expires.

Negotiations for the prolongation of the agreement were scheduled by the transport ministries of both countries for yesterday, but the Russian side has recently requested a later date, which has not yet been set, the official explained.

Due to growing political tension between the two countries, US carriers expressed concern about the absence of a formal prolongation of the over-flight agreement. Last week American Airlines routed three of its flights to Asia around the Russian territory – from Dallas to Hong Kong and Beijing and from Chicago to Beijing, CNBS reports. These were re-routed via Los Angeles. The airline also warned its pilots about possible re-routing around Russia, but on Sunday it resumed flights on its usual transit flight-paths.

A source in the industry has explained to Russian Aviation Insider that the allocation of slots for Russian over-flights is regulated by an annex to an air connection contract formally agreed between Russia and the USA. According to the legal document, it should be extended each year by both authorities, but in recent years was prolonged automatically. The contract’s expiration date is April 19.

Should US carriers be forced to avoid overflying Russian territories, making their routes significantly longer, this will deal a blow to their competitive advantages and affect the viability of their operations because of the significant erosion of transit times and increased costs for extra fuel and reserve crews.

Growing political tension between Russia and the West has already affected the Russian aviation industry. In early April, the US Department of Treasury published a list of sanctions, which included officials, businessmen and companies related to aviation activities. These sanctions imposed restrictions on the blacklisted entities’ interactions with American organisations and citizens of other countries. These sanctions may specifically affect Basel Aero airport holding, UTair Airlines, Airports of Regions holding and Sheremetyevo airport.

As a countermeasure to this move, the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament) considers restrictions for cooperation with the USA, including the aerospace industry.

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