Russia Could Restrict Its Airspace As A Retaliation Effort

Russia, like other countries, grants airlines permission to fly through its airspace, but they could put a pause on the helpful shortcut.
Posted at 8:33 PM, Feb 21, 2022

As Russia threatens to invade Ukraine, there is much military maneuvering happening on the ground.

But there is something in Russia's arsenal that could affect the skies above, too.

Russia, like other countries, grants airlines permission to fly through its airspace, charging fees in return for huge short cuts through Russian territory, like a cargo flight going from Frankfurt, Germany to Tokyo, Japan, or a passenger flight between the U.S. and the Philippines.

"It's extremely useful because you fly much faster between Europe and the U.S. East Coast on one hand and Asia on the other hand, if you fly through Russian air space," Elisabeth Braw, senior fellow at AEI, said. "So it's extremely convenient for them, and as a result, it's also an extremely powerful weapon that the Russians could use if they wanted to."

If it wants to retaliate against sanctions, for example, Russia could cut off access to its airspace. Experts say the global impact on passengers and cargo would be immediate.

"So additional hassle, which would translate into additional costs and yes, higher ticket prices for you and me, and higher consumer prices for the products that are transported via air cargo," Braw said.

An industry group, Airlines for America, says it's monitoring the situation. Back in the fall, the trade group stressed the importance of being able to fly through Russia, saying without the shortcuts, "U.S. airlines will be forced to operate on alternate, inefficient routes resulting in time penalties, technical stops, excess CO2 emissions and loss of historic slot rights."

"We are so used to the convenience of being able to fly anywhere in the world untroubled by geopolitics," Braw said. "Well that's changing."