In recent weeks, many European airline flights to Russia have been canceled. Willingly following the recommendations of the European authorities, some airlines have decided to bypass Belarusian airspace. The move follows the forced diversion by Belarusian authorities of Ryanair flight FR4978 under the pretext of a dubious bomb threat, and the arrest of two passengers, journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega on May 23, 2021.

However, some Air France, Austrian Airlines, and Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) flights were forced to be postponed or even canceled, for lack of authorization from the Russian authorities to modify their flight plan. The Russian authority justified the delay in authorizing new flight plans by “the increase in the number of airline requests.”

Two Air France flights between Paris and Moscow had to be canceled on May 31, 2021, as they lacked the authorization for their routes avoiding Belarus airspace.

On the morning of June 2, 2021, the situation repeated itself, and Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) flight LH1444 from Frankfurt (FRA) to Moscow (DME), and LH1436 to St Petersburg (LED) were canceled. 

This time, however, Berlin decided to respond. The German transport ministry said it had blocked the arrival at the country's airports of several flights operated by Russian airlines. 

"Due to the reciprocal practice, the federal aviation authority also did not issue any further permits for flights operated by Russian airlines as long as authorizations are pending on the Russian side," the German Transport Ministry told AFP.

Thus, the Russian national carrier Aeroflot saw its flight SU2300 between Moscow-Sheremetyevo (SVO) and Frankfurt (FRA) canceled. Similarly, S7 Airlines was unable to service flight S73575 between Moscow-Domodedovo (DME) and Berlin-Brandenburg (BER).

The method appears to have been effective as flights between Germany and Russia, operated by Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) on one side and S7 and Aeroflot on the other, resumed before the end of the day.

If the Russian authorities are truly overwhelmed by demand, the situation could happen again soon. On June 2, 2021, European Union Aviation Safety Agency published a safety directive in which it demanded EASA member states to ensure that aircraft operators cease business operations in FIR Minsk territory.

The European Union moves forward to enact sanctions on Belarus following the Ryanair flight FR4978 incident on May 23, 2021.