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United Airlines has shrugged off international condemnation for its decision to continue actively using Russian airspace despite President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly desperate invasion of Ukraine and the unfolding humanitarian disaster.
The Chicago-based airline regularly flies through Russian airspace to connect the United States with India. From Newark, the carrier flies non-stop to Mumbai and Delhi and from San Francisco, United operates a daily service to Delhi.
On Monday, United Airlines flight UA867 departed San Francisco with a flight plan filed that will see the roughly one-year-old Boeing 787 Dreamliner fly straight through Russian airspace in order to reach India.
The advantage of flying a northerly route that requires intersecting Russia is that the total distance and flight time is a lot less than taking a more southerly route through Europe and the Middle East.
But by taking the northerly route, United is required to pay Russia for the privilege of using its airspace. Critics have slammed United for what they claim is a business practice that is helping to fund Putin’s war in Europe.
United is now the only U.S. airline to operate flights via Russian airspace after both American Airlines and Delta switched flight plans to a more southerly route on February 24. United appears to have followed suit on its Newark services but not from San Francisco.
A spokesperson for the carrier said it was “in frequent communication with the federal government on the issue,” but the airline refused to commit to withdrawing its planes from Russian skies.
Last week, Delta Air withdrew its codeshare agreement with Russian flag carrier Aeroflot, while American Airlines has now suspended its interline agreement with Aeroflot and the private Russian carrier S7.
Unlike its northern neighbours and much of Europe, the United States has not banned Russian jets from its skies and in return, U.S. planes are still legally allowed to use Russian airspace.
Despite its home country not imposing airspace restrictions on Russian jets, Singapore Air has decided not to overly Russia for the time being, while carriers from the Persian Gulf and Asia continue to actively use Russian airspace.
Emirates boss Sir Tim Clark revealed on Sunday that the Dubai-based airline was preparing to reroute flights through Europe should the situation further deteriorate.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.