Everyone has read this alert:
Airspace closures in response to the Ukraine conflict are causing widespread disruption of flights.
- Many countries have closed their airspace to airlines and aircraft from Russia, barring them from landing, taking off or flying through their territories. This includes all of Europe, the UK and Canada. It’s possible more countries will do the same in coming days.
- Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from multiple countries, preventing them from landing in or flying over its territory.
- The airspace above Ukraine is closed to all commercial flights.
What does it mean? Quite simply, when flying from Point A to Point B, the most direct and fastest route will not be available. Let me give you an example.
In 2014, I want to fly to Vladivostok, Russia to begin my cross Russian trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I started this trip in Tokyo, where I visited a dear friend. I took a flight from Tokyo to Vladivostok, which required a stop and change of planes in Seoul, Korea. No problem. It was a short flight of about 2 hours and 30 minutes, as I recall. After a short layover, I boarded my flight for Vladivostok, a distance of about 642 kilometers or about 400 miles.
Roughly, 400 miles is about a one-hour flight, similar to LA to SF on a commuter flight. Imagine my surprise when the flight took almost three hours. Why? We could not fly over China’s airspace, creating a rather long, and circuitous route. If you recall, Korean Airlines flights were shot down over Russian airspace back in 1978 and 1983. Since then, foreign planes do not fly over China or Soviet (now Russian) airspace.
So, you can see the complications created by the war in Ukraine, and the entire airspace issue. Maybe it is a good time to stay home?
But the silver lining to this entire experience. I was impressed by the professionalism and precision of the Korea Airlines ground and air staff. Absolutely impeccably dressed and coiffed, perfect timing, and excellent service. When the check in counter opened at precisely 6am, each employee was standing at her station, ready to help, with a big smile.