Mass flight cancellations in Ukraine are likely to happen as reports say aircraft insurance companies will no longer cover flights into Ukrainian airspace.
According to a report in Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, some of the world’s biggest insurance companies will stop insuring flights through Ukrainian airspace from 14th February onward.
Unnamed source within the Ukrainian airline industry told Ukrainska Pravda that major insurance companies think the risk of hostilities is so high that they can no longer insure flights to and from Ukraine.
According to the online publication, the loss of insurance coverage will “force airlines to suspend flights” to Ukraine.
The same sentiment was repeated by Ukrainian low-cost airline SkyUp.
In an online statement, SkyUp reported that “on February 12, 2022, the world’s largest insurance companies informed Ukrainian airlines that within 48 hours they will suspend aircraft insurance for flights in Ukraine’s airspace”.
The Kyiv Independent reported that British insurance giants Lloyds is one of the companies which will temporarily suspend its conflict risk insurance policy for flights over Ukrainian airspace from 14th February onward.
However, the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure announced that it will give “additional financial guarantees” to airline companies to make sure that flights to and from Ukraine continue to operate.
This morning (13th February), a SkyUp flight from the Portuguese island of Madeira to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was forced to divert to Chisinau in Moldova.
According to a SkyUp spokesperson, the Irish owner from whom the plane is leased suddenly informed the airline that it could no longer fly into Ukrainian airspace.
As the plane was already on its way to Kyiv and negotiations with the lessor proved pointless, the pilots had no other option than to land in a neighbouring country.
Some major European airlines have already decided to take action into their own hands and pre-emptively cancelled their Ukraine flights.
One of these airlines is Dutch flag carrier KLM, which announced on 12th February it would immediately suspend its flights to Ukraine and no longer use Ukrainian airspace.
A KLM statement read: “KLM has not been flying over the eastern regions of Ukraine and Crimea since 2014. There are now no more KLM flights through Ukrainian airspace until further notice.”
According to Reuters, German airline company Lufthansa is considering doing the same.
Despite the threat of an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Ukrainian airspace is still open for commercial aviation.
However, Ukrainian Air Traffic Control did issue a warning to airlines advising them not to fly over the Black Sea due to Russian navy drills.
— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) February 13, 2022
Although it’s of course anyone’s guess what will happen in the coming weeks, there is no doubt that tensions have risen significantly.
I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if more airlines decide to suspend their flights to Ukraine, especially those by airline companies who lease most of the planes in their fleet.
However, even other airline companies might decide it’s best not to risk flying into Ukraine in the event that their planes and crews might find themselves on the ground or in the airspace over Ukraine at the moment an armed conflict breaks out, leading to an instant closure of Ukrainian airspace.
If you are a foreign citizen in Ukraine and think it’s the best course of action to leave the country according to the advisories of countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Israel, you might perhaps be better off driving or taking a bus or train across the border.
Although I recently visited the Donbas region of Ukraine myself and felt completely safe during my trip, some recent developments (Russian forces moving from army bases moving to advanced positions in the field, field hospitals being built up) aren’t very promising.
It may of course just be another escalation by Vladimir Putin in a game of brinkmanship with the west to try to score some more concessions and keep the pressure up, but I would certainly take some precautions myself if I would still have been in Ukraine.
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