EU to ban Belarusian carriers after forced hijacking
Following a meeting on May 24, 2021, the European Council decided to ban all Belarusian airlines from landing in the European Union and passing through its airspace.
The Council conclusions also called on all EU airlines to avoid flying over Belarus.
The European Council is a body made up of the heads of state and government of the 27 EU Member States. It has no direct legislative power, however, and all of its conclusions must be adopted by other bodies, including the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. As such, the ban is not immediately effective.
Belavia airline (B2, Minsk National) is the only Belarusian airline to operate regular flights to the European Union. According to the ch-aviation timetable module, the airline currently connects Minsk with 19 destinations in the block. Freight specialists Rada Airlines, Rubystar Airways, BySky and Genex all hold EASA Third Country Operator Certificates, allowing them to operate charter flights.
The findings were adopted following the state-backed hijacking of a B737-800 operated by Buzz on behalf of its parent company Ryanair on May 23. The plane, en route between Athens Int’l and Vilnius, was notified by air traffic controllers. of a potential bomb on board in Belarusian airspace and was ordered to land at Minsk National, although it was closer to Vilnius at that time. The Belarusian Air Force scrambled a MiG-29 fighter to force the plane to divert to Minsk. Upon his arrival in the capital, the independent journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested. The SP-RSM plane (msn 44791) left for Vilnius after about seven hours on the ground.
Belarusian authorities have since confirmed that the order to force the plane to land was issued directly by President Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Prior to the Council decisions, a number of countries and airlines implemented their own bans affecting air traffic with Belarus.
airBaltic (BT, Riga) was the first airline to officially announce that it would now avoid Belarusian airspace.
“In the immediate future, airBaltic has decided to avoid entering Belarusian airspace until the situation is clarified or a decision is issued by the authorities … On May 23, airBaltic followed the recommendation of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a precautionary measure. to exercise caution when operating in or over Minsk, ”the Latvian carrier said.
Due to the current network cuts, the decision has so far impacted a limited number of flights, including a service from Tbilisi to Riga and a round trip from Riga to Odessa, where its flight paths avoided completely Belarusian airspace. Most of AirBaltic’s European routes do not pass through Belarusian airspace. Wizz Air and Lufthansa also decided to avoid flying over Belarus and, in the case of Lufthansa, suspended services to Minsk. Lufthansa’s last departure from Minsk on May 24 was delayed by two hours due to a false bomb threat.
airBaltic, Lufthansa and the Polish company LOT Polish Airlines are the only carriers in the European Union with regular flights to Minsk.
Lithuanian Transport Minister Marius Skuodis said the country will not allow the landing or departure of any aircraft that have passed through or intend to pass through Belarusian airspace. Ukraine has issued a similar ban.
British Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has announced that the UK will advise, through the Civil Aviation Authority, all of its airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace. He said it would also revoke Belavia’s operating license. The state-owned airline operates 3 times a week between London Gatwick and Minsk using E195 regional jets, the ch-aviation timetables module says.