Ryanair, Europe’s largest discounted airline, has said it has reduced the number of flights to Ukraine.
Airlines are changing their schedules to limit their exposure to Ukrainian airspace, while continuing flights to and from the country as its opposition to Russian troops clustered at the border intensifies.
Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest discounted airline, has reduced the number of flights to Ukraine, according to a spokeswoman.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is our number one priority and we will continue to monitor our schedules and adjust accordingly,” the Irish carrier said in an e-mail statement Thursday.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG and its Swiss and Austrian divisions have changed some flights to Kiev from evening to morning due to safety concerns to avoid crews staying overnight in the Ukrainian capital, a spokesman said. The Dutch carrier KLM also said that its crews do not spend the night.
Carriers have generally avoided flying over Ukraine since a Malaysia Airlines Bhd jet. was shot down over separatist-controlled territory in the eastern part of the country in 2014. Commercial flights are still banned over eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
International investigators have concluded that Malaysian Flight 17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile. President Vladimir Putin has denied claims that Russia is behind the action.
Diplomats are working to calm the recent crisis, which has led to a gathering of more than 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden reiterated warnings that Russia could invade Ukraine next month. Russia has denied plans to invade.
On January 19, Canadian aircraft operators were advised not to fly over southern and eastern Ukraine “due to the potential risk of increased military activity and special anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine.”
Air France has expanded its practice of avoiding eastern Ukraine on flights to Asia and is now diverting across the country, a spokesman said. The French division of Air France-KLM maintains normal services by rotating twice a week between Paris and Kiev, turning on the same day.
Carriers, including LOT Polish Airlines and Hungary’s Wizz Air Holdings Plc, also maintain direct services, but said they are ready to change their plans if necessary.
“We continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine closely, but we have not made any changes to our schedule,” Wizz said.
Security protocols will be activated in case of danger, LOT said in an email. “Any decision to cancel flights to Kiev, Lviv or Odessa will be made based on the recommendations of aviation regulators,” the company said.
KLM determines whether to fly over a country through a security analysis that includes the airline’s contribution to government sources of intelligence, defense and counter-terrorism, the statement said.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency said it was monitoring developments in coordination with the aviation industry and the European Commission, a spokesman said.
Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said the airlines’ trade group is working with Eurocontrol, which monitors European airspace to ensure that traffic entering and around Ukraine can avoid areas of potential conflict.
“This is a region of the world that has faced problems in the past,” Walsh told a briefing on January 25th. “Most airlines have significantly reduced the amount of traffic passing through the airspace, and this has been the case for several years.”