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‘Monitor situation’: DGCA to airlines on Belarus airspace

Several European airlines including Lufthansa, KLM, Finnair and AirBaltic have started skirting Belarusian airspace. Vistara and Air India fly over Belarus for their flights to Europe.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
May 27, 2021 3:00:24 am
A Ryanair flight was made to land in Minsk. (Reuters/file)

The country’s aviation safety regulator has cautioned Indian airline operators of the incident in Belarus, where a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was made to force land in Minsk, allegedly to arrest a dissident journalist on board. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has told airlines to “monitor the situation” as a number of airlines have started re-routing their flights to avoid Belarusian airspace.

Several European airlines including Lufthansa, KLM, Finnair and AirBaltic have started skirting Belarusian airspace. Vistara and Air India fly over Belarus for their flights to Europe. As per Flightradar24, Vistara flies over Belarus on its flights from Delhi to London, while Air India uses the airspace to fly to London, Frankfurt, etc. “Please ensure fuel planning, (and) take into account a last moment re-route in case overflying Belarus airspace,” DGCA is learnt to have told airlines.

As per Flightradar24: “Most flights that use Belarus’ airspace are just passing through. Since downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine in 2014, airlines have avoided airspace there, moving flights that would transit Ukraine if on an optimal routing north to Belarus. Most flights transiting Belarus are flying between western Europe and either Russia or Southeast Asia”.

The arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich has resulted in international bodies reprimanding Belarus. He had taken a Ryanair flight for the 3-hour long journey. However, when the plane approached the border between Lithuania and Belarus, a MiG-29 fighter intercepted it, and made it land in Minsk. Ryanair said its crew was “notified by Belarus (Air Traffic Control) of a potential security threat on board and were instructed to divert to Minsk”.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) — the UN’s specialised agency for civil aviation — said: “ICAO is strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing of a Ryanair flight and its passengers, which could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention. We look forward to more information being officially confirmed by the countries and operators concerned”. It added ICAO’s Council President has called an urgent meeting of the 36 diplomatic representatives to the council on May 27.

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