MIAMI – Air France (AF) made a last-minute cancellation of its flight AF1154 linking Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Moscow-Sheremetyevo (SVO) on grounds of a refused entry into the Russian airspace while avoiding Belarus overflight.

Air France issued a press release, published by Le Figaro, explaining that “Air France confirms the cancellation of flight AF1154 on May 26, 2021 on the Paris-Charles de Gaulle-Moscow route, for operational reasons linked to the bypassing of Belarusian airspace requiring a new authorization from the Russian authorities to enter their territory”

The AF1154 flight, scheduled for departure at 10:20 local time, was at first shown as “reported” but was finally canceled as well as AF1155 the rerturn flight from SVO to CDG. According to the AF schedule, two flights are programmed in the coming two days, one on Thursday, operated in codeshare by Aeroflot (SU), also a Skyteam member, and the second on Friday flown by AF also in codeshare with SU.

The cancellation happened after measures were taken by the EU Commission on Monday, May 24, after the incident involving a Ryanair (FR) flight that was compelled to land in Minsk (MSQ) while en route from Athens (ATH) to Vilnius (VNO). Under the emergency measures, the European airspace is closed to all Belarus registered aircraft.

On the same issue, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has counseled all member state airlines to avoid overflying the Belarus airspace. EASA covers all the 27 European Union states plus Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Belavia Embraer E195-E2 EW-563PO – Photo : Alberto Cucini/Airways

France Refusal of Belavia Overflight

Without drawing any conclusions, we can recall that on Wednesday May 26, France had refused overflight permission to a Belavia Belarusian Airlines (B2) aircraft, linking MSQ to Barcelona (BCN), already in flight and compelled to return to its departing airport after being informed by Polish air traffic that the French airspace was closed.

The French decision, according to the French L’Express, has drawn heavy criticism from Belarus officials that, in then words of Anatoli Glaz, spokeperson of the Belarus Foireign Affairs, accused France and declared “This is an absolutely outrageous fact and an immoral act. Honestly, it’s practically air piracy.”

According to B2, the flight plan was refused and de-activated by the French Air traffic Control three minutes before the planned take-off and without any warning to the airline. B2 continues by saying that “the French Air Controllers have invoked a direct and verbal order from the French Prime Minister.”

Featured image: Air France Airbus 321-200 F-GTAY. Photo: Marco Macca/Airways