DALLAS – Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) has announced it will resume using Russian airspace on some flights that were suspended after Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Cathay Pacific will begin flying its “Polar route” from New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HGK) on Tuesday, the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier said it would overfly Russia’s far east due to strong headwinds and payload issues on its flights from the East Coast of North America to Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific said, “The Polar Route provides a safe, direct, and the fastest flight experience to our customers travelling from the East Coast of North America to Hong Kong,” adding that there were no sanctions preventing it from doing so.
A Return to Cold War Flying
In March 2022, global airlines found themselves banned from flying over parts of the world due to airspace blockades and sanctions brought forward by the Ukraine crisis. CX specifically said that it would not route flights through Russian airspace, avoiding the area despite longer flight times.
In retaliation to the Western blockade, Russia decided to also ban airlines from more than 35 countries from flying over its airspace, including all EU airlines, the UK, Canada, and others.
As a result, many European airlines, such as Air France (AF) and Finnair (AY), stopped flying to Russia altogether, also canceling flights to China, Japan, and South Korea. Lufthansa (LH) also cut cargo flights to Asia due to the Russian airspace closure.
Then, US president Joe Biden decided to ban Russian aircraft from entering US airspace. US airlines rarely overfly Russia, so the Russian airspace blockade did not affect them in any significant way.
European airlines flying again to Asia, however, had to operate longer flights at an extra cost to avoid Russian airspace.
Bloomberg News was the first to report CX’s resumption of flights in Russian airspace.
Featured image: Cathay Pacific 777-300ER B-KQY. Photo: Christian Winter/Airways