The problems of air carriers with flying around Belarus, which seemed to be solved, have not completely disappeared. Air France canceled a third of flights from Paris to Moscow and part of flights to St. Petersburg, scheduled for June, without explaining the reasons: the company said that it could not agree with Russia on the change of the route on May 31. Austrian Airlines previously faced similar difficulties. However, some of the carriers successfully received permits. Experts argue about the real reason for the cancellation of flights: in a new round of confrontation between Russia and the EU over the Belarusian air sanctions, or in the desire of the carrier to cancel unprofitable flights under a plausible pretext.
French airline Air France has canceled 21 of 60 flights from Paris to Moscow scheduled for June. Also, judging by the carrier’s website, next month, five of 18 flights from Paris to St. Petersburg, which, according to Flightradar, traditionally bypass Belarus, will not be operated. At the same time, on May 31, the carrier’s plane successfully landed at Pulkovo, although both flights to Sheremetyevo were canceled.
The carrier’s representatives explained that they could not agree with the Russian regulators on the changes in the route.
Problems with permits for adjusting flight plans from European carriers began after many of them announced plans to avoid flights through the airspace of Belarus after the scandal with the forced landing in Minsk of a Ryanair plane with opposition leader Roman Protasevich on board (see Kommersant from 24 May). For three days Air France could not obtain permission to enter Russia on the new route. Austrian Austrian Airlines, which was unable to fly from Vienna to Moscow on May 27, did not receive approval for the adjustment.
On May 29, the Federal Air Transport Agency explained the problems with the coordination of flights of European airlines bypassing Belarus with a large number of applications. The regulator warned airlines about a possible delay in the approval of the necessary documents. As Kommersant previously reported, changes to regular flights should be agreed with the Federal Air Transport Agency and ATM at least three working days, but in practice, market participants told Kommersant, all amendments are made “in working order” and rather quickly.
After the statement of the Federal Air Transport Agency, the incident seemed settled. Already on May 30, Air France, Austrian Airlines, Polish LOT and other carriers began to receive admissions for flights to Russia, bypassing Belarus, from Saturday. At the same time, for example, on May 25, LOT changed its route of flight LO677 Warsaw-Moscow and from that day it flies through Lithuania and Latvia. The flight LH1452 of the German Lufthansa, which has been flying from Frankfurt to Moscow through the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian airspaces, is also operated according to the schedule.
In the Federal Air Transport Agency, a source in the industry tells Kommersant, the precedent with Air France is explained by the fact that the French side incorrectly submits documents for re-registration.
“These, according to the agency, are purely procedural issues related to the applicant,” he says. The Federal Air Transport Agency declined to comment on the situation.
The version with bureaucratic difficulties and a heavy workload of the Federal Air Transport Agency, taking into account the crisis of international traffic, does not stand up to criticism, another source in the industry believes. “More bewildering was only the explanation that the airports were busy and did not have time to receive all flights due to changes in the schedule,” he says. “There is a feeling that the game continues with the confrontation between the two sides – Russia and the European Union – in the dispute over Belarusian aviation sanctions. The EU continues to insist on litigation over the Ryanair scandal while Russia tries to minimize the political and economic impact. “
Air France has never specified the circumstances of the refusal, notes one of Kommersant’s interlocutors: “Let the airline explain which entry points it tried to approve, how the arrival time changed, in what time it usually received approvals – none of this has yet been publicly announced. while flights were canceled for a month in advance. ” At the time of publication, no comments from Air France were received by Kommersant.
The most likely reason for the cancellation of flights from Paris to Moscow is their low commercial load, says Alexander Lanetsky, CEO of Friendly Avia Support.
“To admit that tickets are selling worse than those of competitors is a reputational cost that complicates the already difficult financial situation of the carrier,” the expert says. He recalls that the Irish Ryanair appealed to the EU court because of the allocation of that discriminatory, according to the plaintiff, the rivals of the state subsidy of € 3.4 billion. In case Ryanair wins, Air France-KLM will have to return the funds, Mr. Lanetsky believes, and therefore now “ the carrier may seek to extinguish any negative news feeds ”.