Aviation

Ukraine pumps millions into aviation to keep planes in the air amid fears of Russian invasion

Ukraine pledged 16.6 billion hryvnias ($827 million) to maintain its airspace for commercial flights as some airlines review their services to the Eastern European nation after the US warned Russia could invade on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, said the funds “were allocated to ensure flight safety in Ukraine for insurance and leasing companies” and would “stabilise the situation on the market of passenger air transportation and will guarantee the return to Ukraine of our citizens who are currently abroad.”

Airlines suspend Ukraine flights

Dutch airline KLM – part of Air France – said it would stop serving flights to Ukraine and German airline Lufthansa said it was considering suspending flights.

A passenger plane operated by Ukrainian charter airline Sky Up was on its way to Kyiv from Madeira, Portugal but was diverted to the Moldovan capital, Chișinău after the plane’s Irish owner said it was banning flights in Ukrainian airspace.

Ukraine’s state air traffic service on Sunday advised airlines to avoid flying over the black sea until Saturday because of Russian naval exercises near the Crimea peninsula.

According to The Guardian, an adviser to the president’s chief of staff said there was “no point” in closing the skies further and speaking after KLM’s flight suspension said it “somewhat resembles a kind of partial blockade.”

The Netherlands is particularly sensitive to the conflict surrounding Ukrainian airspace after a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed rebels in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board, including 198 Dutch citizens.

A Dutch investigation found that the BUK surface-to-air missile that shot the plane came from a Russian military base.

KLM’s decision to stop flights in this airspace followed adjusted travel advice and an “extensive safety analysis.”

“KLM has not been flying over the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea since 2014,” the company added.

“There are now no more KLM flights through Ukrainian airspace until further notice.”

Governments of 39 countries have warned their citizens to leave Ukraine including Australia.

Smartraveller.gov.au warned Aussies not to travel to Ukraine and leave as soon as possible because flight availability could change or be suspended at any moment.

This comes as staff in the Australian embassy have left Kyiv to Lyiv.

Ukraine’s airspace

Many foreigners were rushing to book flights after rumours that Ukraine’s airspace could soon be closed.

“From tomorrow, airlines are advised not to fly … over this area, and to plan optimal routes in advance, taking into account the current situation,” Ukraine’s state air traffic service said.

However Ukraine’s deputy infrastructure minister, Mustafa Nayyem, said the country had not closed it’s airspace.

“Closing the airspace is a sovereign right of Ukraine and the government has not taken this decision,” Nayyem wrote on Facebook.

Nayyem said that the majority of airlines were still operating, but some faced insurance difficulties due to the threat of Russian attack.

“We expect that in the nearest time the situation will stabilise, but nevertheless the state is ready to support airlines and plans to offer additional financial guarantees to support the air travel market,” wrote Nayyem.

KLM and Lufthansa both began rescheduling flights in January to avoid having staff stay in Ukraine’s capital as tensions escalated. Irish low-cost airline Ryanair said in late January that it had reduced flights to and from the country.


Featured Image: Twitter/@TWMCLtd



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