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What Impact Is The Ukraine Crisis Having On International Travel?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has already killed hundreds of people, displaced thousands of refugees, and sent shockwaves throughout the world as many watch on in disbelief at the events unfolding.

International air travel has been hit hard in multiple ways since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack. Air travel has been restricted around the conflict zone, causing some planes to be stranded or rerouted. Impending fuel price hikes, restrictions against Russian aircraft, and sanctions by the European Union are also proving difficult to navigate for many airlines.

Closed Airspaces

Ukraine, Moldova, and a portion of Belarus have completely shut down their airspaces, causing flights to and from those countries to be cancelled, as well as preventing routine aviation traffic from going through. Due to fears of "mid-range missiles penetrating into controlled airspace," the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) updated its existing security alert on Friday, extending the warning for airlines and other civilian operators from 100 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from Ukraine's border with Russia. "Operators should exercise extreme caution," the EASA advised on Thursday.

According to flight monitoring services, the airspace over Ukraine and its border with Russia is vacant as a result of the restrictions and military flights going dark. On Thursday, Flight monitoring website FlightRadar24 reported that an El Al flight destined for Toronto had to execute a rapid U-turn out of Ukrainian airspace following the advice from EASA.

There are real risks to flying over conflict zones -- as illustrated in 2014 when a Russian-made missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 above eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people

US Response

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is widening the area around Ukraine where American pilots are prohibited from flying, stating that the no-fly zone will now "include the whole country of Ukraine, the entire country of Belarus, and a western portion of Russia”.

Since January, the US has issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisement, warning individuals to avoid travelling to Ukraine due to "ongoing tension along the Ukrainian border, the potential for harassment against US citizens, as well as the embassy's limited ability to assist US citizens in Russia."

Meanwhile, on Friday, Delta Airlines announced that it would be halting its partnership with Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot. The two carriers have a codesharing arrangement that allows Delta customers to be assigned to Aeroflot flights and vice versa. According to Delta, the deal has been terminated with immediate effect.

Elsewhere, American Airlines is re-routing its Delhi-New York flight to avoid Russian airspace. United Airlines, however, continues to fly over Russia for Delhi-Chicago and Delhi-Newark flights, according to flightradar24. As news of the invasion spreads, airline stocks have fluctuated, and ticket costs are projected to climb as a consequence of higher gasoline prices and perhaps longer flight patterns as a result of the several airspace closures.

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