British Airways cancels Moscow flights as Russia retaliates over Aeroflot ban

Mark Thompson

London (CNN Business)British Airways has suspended its flights to Moscow after Russia banned all UK carriers from its airspace.

Russia’s Federal Agency for Air Transport said in a statement Friday that it was banning UK registered flights, as well as aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with the United Kingdom, from transiting the country’s airspace.

The Russian agency said the measure was taken in response to the decision by the UK government Thursday to ban Aeroflot and other Russian airlines from British airspace. That was part of a package of sanctions announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but this is clearly a matter beyond our control,” British Airways said in a statement. “We are notifying customers on canceled services and are offering a full refund.”

BA was flying three times a week to Moscow. It said it would also have to reroute some services to Asia, potentially causing longer flight times.

Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot had been operating direct flights between Moscow and London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, according to its website.

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“No aircraft on a scheduled service which is owned, chartered or operated by a person connected with Russia, or which is registered in Russia shall fly in United Kingdom airspace,” the UK Department for Transport said in a bulletin. The restrictions went into effect at midnight, and are due to expire on May 23.

English Premier League soccer club Manchester United said Friday it was dropping Aeroflot as a sponsor.

Russia’s attack has already forced the closure of Ukrainian airspace, and the fallout from the crisis will lead more carriers to reroute flights, adding to costs at a time of rising fuel prices.

“On Thursday evening, we took the decision to start avoiding Russian airspace and our flight paths will continue to be adjusted for some Virgin Atlantic passenger services between the UK, Pakistan and India,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said. ” We apologize for any inconvenience caused to customers by slightly longer flight times.”

Virgin Atlantic is also suspending cargo flights between London and Shanghai while it considers rerouting those services.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said Ukraine’s skies and airspace in Russia and Belarus within 100 nautical miles of borders with Ukraine could pose risks, Reuters reported.

“The impact for us is not huge because right now we are only flying to a small number of destinations in Asia and we can reroute our flights,” said Luis Gallego, CEO of IAG, the parent company of British Airways that also owns Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling.

— Rob North, Pete Muntean, Anna Chernova and Vasco Cotovio contributed reporting.

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