UK airlines face higher fuel costs and longer journey times on flights to Asia and beyond after Russia banned British carriers from its airspace.
The move came in swift response to Boris Johnson’s decision to ban Russian national carrier Aeroflot from landing in the UK as part of a range of new sanctions against Moscow.
British Airways, the only UK airline flying to Moscow prior to the ban, said it was warning customers that some flights to destinations east of Russia would now take longer due to rerouting.
BA usually operates three flights a week to the Russian capital but does not fly to any other destinations in Russia or Ukraine.
The retaliatory move from Russia will increase already escalating jet fuel costs and pose more headaches for the national carrier’s long-haul services.
A BA spokesperson said: “We apologize for the inconvenience but this is clearly a matter beyond our control. We are notifying customers on canceled services and are offering a full refund.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Virgin Atlantic said the flight ban would increase flight times to India and Pakistan by up to an hour. The airline had decided from Thursday evening to avoid Russian airspace before Moscow’s edict confirms the ban.
A spokesperson said: “We apologize for any inconvenience caused to customers by slightly longer flight times.
“The safety and security of our customers and people always comes first and we’re monitoring the situation in Ukraine and Russia extremely carefully following the escalation of conflict, continuing to operate in full compliance with relevant safety regulators, authorities and governments.”
The longer flight paths will affect four Virgin routes, between London Heathrow to Islamabad, Lahore and Delhi, and between Manchester and Islamabad.
Virgin has not flown in Ukraine airspace since 2014, on its own risk assessments, above and beyond official guidance, and said it had further increased distances from the hostilities at the Russia-Ukraine border since December.
All airlines remain acutely aware of the fate of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine in 2014 by what investigators concluded was a Russian-made missile fired by pro-Moscow forces, killing all 298 people aboard.
The US and the EU have yet to follow suit on any flight ban. Aeroflot currently operates as part of the SkyTeam alliance, and has codeshare flights in and out of the US with Delta.
Wizz and Ryanair were the only airlines operating direct flights from Ukraine to the UK. All flights have been suspended. Wizz, the only airline with bases in Ukraine, was on Thursday trying to evacuate its remaining aircraft and crew from Kyiv and Lviv.