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Iberia and British Airways to re-route flights to avoid Russian airspace

IAG, owner of British Airways and Spanish carriers Iberia and Vueling, is re-routing aircraft to avoid flying over Russian airspace and cancelling its flights to Russia, its boss said Friday, amid international outcry over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Iberia and British Airways to re-route flights to avoid Russian airspace
The UK has also banned Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot from flying over Britain as part of a series of sanctions. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP)

Chief executive Luis Gallego told reporters in a call that IAG was re-routing flights so as not to fly over Russia, and cancelled a Moscow bound flight.

The news came one day after the UK government banned Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot from flying over Britain as part of a series of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of neighbour Ukraine.

Moscow in retaliation on Friday banned all UK-linked planes, including transiting flights, from its airspace.

“We took the decision to cancel the flight… to Moscow today,” Gallego told a conference call for the group’s annual results on Friday.

The airline conglomerate was also re-routing scheduled flights to Singapore and Dubai so that they do “not fly over Russia”, he added.

Separately, IAG revealed Friday that net losses more than halved last year with recovery underway as Covid travel curbs were lifted.

However, it was also monitoring the Ukraine crisis that has shuttered airspace for civilian aircraft in the region.

“The impact of this crisis we are still monitoring,” Gallego noted.

He added that flights to the East were “very reduced” as a result.

“All the flights that we are doing now we can re-route, so we can maintain the schedule.”

There are currently no commercial flights landing in Ukraine after the Ukrainian government decided to close its airspace to them for safety reasons.

A number of European Airlines including Iberia, Vueling, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, Swiss and Eurowings have also said they will cancel their flights to Ukraine until at least the end of February. 

‘Strong recovery’

IAG revealed that its loss after tax narrowed sharply to €2.9 billion ($3.3 billion) last year.

That contrasted with a record €6.9 billion in 2020, when the coronavirus emergency paralysed air travel and grounded flights worldwide.

Passenger capacity last year was 36 percent of its pre-pandemic 2019 level, but this reached 58 percent in the fourth quarter.

“The easing of government-imposed travel restrictions as the year progressed resulted in improving travel demand, in particular following the opening of the US border to foreign travellers” in early November, IAG said.

Total revenues climbed eight percent to almost €8.5 billion.

“We are confident that a strong recovery is underway,” said Gallego.

IAG noted also that the Omicron Covid variant, which emerged late last year, only had a “negative short term impact” on its performance.

Yet IAG expected a “significant” operating loss for the current first quarter, and cited seasonally weak demand, ongoing Omicron uncertainty, and rising costs as capacity is ramped back up.

The group then anticipates a return to profitability in the second quarter, but sounded a cautious note over this outlook.

“This assumes no further setbacks related to Covid-19 and government-imposed travel restrictions or material impact from recent geopolitical developments,” it cautioned.

IAG aims this year to return to 85 percent of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity.

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COVID-19 RULES

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Spain on Saturday eased Covid entry rules for unvaccinated tourists from outside the European Union, in a boost for the key tourism sector ahead of the peak summer holidays.

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Until now travellers from outside the bloc — including Spain’s main tourism market Britain — could only enter with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

But as of Saturday visitors from outside of the EU will also be allowed to enter Spain with a negative Covid test result, the transport ministry said in a statement.

PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test 24 hours prior to departure.

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the “new phase of the pandemic” meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the bloc.

“This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector, which will make it easier for tourists outside of Europe to visit us during the high season,” she added in the statement.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

With sunny beaches and a rich architectural heritage, Spain was the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, with 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

But international travel restrictions related to the pandemic brought Spain’s tourism sector to its knees in 2020 as it welcomed just 19 million tourists.

The figure rose to 31.1 million in 2021, far below the government forecast of 45 million arrivals.

READ ALSO: Spain lifts Covid-19 checks at French border

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