On May 26, 2021, Air France flight AF1154 from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) had to be canceled for “operational reasons.” The same flights due to take place the next two days (May 27 and 28, 2021) were also canceled. Passengers were offered a refund or an Aeroflot flight as an alternative.
Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) faced the same situation regarding its flights between Frankfurt (FRA) and Moscow (DME) and Saint Petersburg (LED). As for Austrian Airlines, it also had to cancel a flight from Vienna (VIE) to Moscow (DME) on May 27, 2021.
The airlines were following the recommendations of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Council. Both authorities asked their airlines to avoid the overflight of Belarus. The request was emitted following the diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 and the arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega on May 23, 2021.
However, to bypass Belarusian airspace, airlines had to receive a new authorization from Russia to enter its territory. But Moscow did not give its consent to the new flight plans. “When planes bypass Belarus, they ask to fly to different places which are absolutely not coordinated, which leads to technical problems,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Eventually, on May 28, 2021, Austrian Airlines was granted the right to use an alternative route for its Vienna-Moscow flight. A day later, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and Air France also received the green light from the Russian air regulator Rossaviatsia.
“We have the authorizations for this weekend and we are awaiting a return from the authorities for our flights beyond,” announced a spokesperson for Air France.
The Russian authority justified the delay in authorizing new flight plans by “the increase in the number of airline requests.”
On May 26, 2021, the Belavia flight BRU869 from Minsk (MSQ) to Barcelona (BCN) had to turn back near the Polish border, because France, lying further along the route, prohibited it from flying through its airspace.