During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden finally announced he would follow the lead of the British government, Canada, and the European Union, by banning Russian planes from U.S. airspace.
Announcing a slew of new sanctions designed to rachet up the pressure on Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine, Biden said the airspace closure would be an “additional squeeze” on Russia’s economy.
“Tonight I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights – further isolating Russia – and adding an additional squeeze –on their economy,” Biden told Congress.
“The Ruble has lost 30% of its value. The Russian stock market has lost 40% of its value and trading remains suspended. Russia’s economy is reeling and Putin alone is to blame.”
“Together with our allies, we are providing support to the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom. Military assistance. Economic assistance. Humanitarian assistance.”
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the first world leader to announce an airspace ban on Russian jets last Thursday and Moscow almost immediately retaliated by announcing a reciprocal airspace ban.
European nations and the Canadian government followed with similar airspace bans over the weekend resulting in tit-for-tat sanctions from the Russian government.
As of Monday, however, United Airlines was the only U.S. airline to still be actively using Russian airspace.
By Tuesday evening, United said it would suspend the use of Russian airspace. The airline uses Russian airspace to operate its flights to India but it came under heavy fire by critics who accused it of helping to fund Putin’s invasion of Ukraine because it has to pay Russia to overfly its airspace.
In an internal memo, the airline said it would temporarily suspend service between San Francisco to Delhi and between Newark and Mumbai because avoiding Russian airspace would make the flight too long.
The airline told staffers that it was evaluating options for these “unique routes”.
Over the last few days, Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has requested special permission to enter airspace it is officially banned from in order to operate ‘humanitarian’ flights to rescue stranded Russian citizens.
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.