Belarus airspace is being avoided after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Belarus and a dissident journalist on board was detained, the European Union has urged airlines to avoid the country’s airspace.
Belarus has been accused of "hijacking" a civilian airliner by forcing a Ryanair passenger flight to land in the country using a fake bomb threat so that authorities could arrest a prominent critic of its authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko. https://t.co/2ifyG2wl0L
— ABC News (@ABC) May 24, 2021
Reactions of the European Union after air hijacking
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday that the EU was “closing our airspace to planes from Belarus” and that EU airlines should avoid flying over Belarus. She also said that “More economic sanctions are expected to be announced shortly. ”
“It is a direct assault on freedom of speech and European sovereignty,” she said at a press conference. This outrageous behaviour requires a strong response, so the European Council agreed to impose additional sanctions on those involved in the hijacking, as well as companies and economic institutions that are funding the [Belarusian] regime.
Following the incident, major international carriers such as Singapore Airlines (SINGF) and Lufthansa (DLAKY) said they would avoid flying over Belarus. Belarusian air traffic control directed Ryanair (RYAAY) flight 4978 to divert to Minsk on Sunday due to a fictitious security warning.
On Monday, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary accused Belarus of “state-sponsored hijacking and piracy.” On Tuesday, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier said it is following EU advice and will not fly over Belarusian airspace.
After saying earlier in the day that it will continue to fly over Belarus and that a planned flight from Frankfurt to Minsk would go ahead, Lufthansa (DLAKY) reversed course late Monday. We are temporarily suspending operations in Belarusian airspace due to the current complex situation, according to a spokesperson.
Following calls from EU governments, Air France-KLM (AFLYY) will also suspend flights over Belarus until further notice. This includes KLM codeshare flights to Minsk operated by Belavia, Belarus’ national carrier. Air France announced on Tuesday that flight arrangements for planes already on their way would be modified.
Other countries, including Sweden and the United Kingdom, have expressed strong opposition to Belarus
In response to guidance from the Swedish Transport Agency, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced on Monday that it would reroute its twice-weekly flights between Oslo and Kiev, the capitals of Norway and Ukraine.
Our top priority is always to keep you safe. SAS said, “We are closely monitoring the situation and are in close touch with Scandinavian and European aviation authorities, and we are following their orders.”
Earlier on Monday, Latvia’s flag carrier AirBaltic announced that it will avoid accessing Belarusian airspace until the situation is clarified or the authorities issue a decision. Avia Solutions Group, based in Cyprus, said its Baltic airlines will not use Belarusian airspace, while Wizz Air (WZZAF), a low-cost Hungarian carrier, said it had rerouted a flight between Ukraine and Estonia on Monday, adding in a statement: “We are continuously monitoring and evaluating the situation.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom (CAA) said it had given a notice to all UK airlines asking them to avoid flying over “any territory of the Republic of Belarus.” British Airways, which is operated by IAG (ICAGY), has confirmed that it will follow official instructions.
Both international carrier licenses held by Belarusian airlines, including Belavia and chartered air carriers, have been suspended by the CAA.