Airlines claim Chinese carriers flying over Russia have ‘unfair advantage’

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Disgruntled airlines have said that Chinese carriers have an “unfair advantage” because they can fly over Russia, cutting time and costs.

A raft of airlines including British Airways, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic have recently announced that they are either restarting flights to China or increasing the number due to global travel restrictions relaxing.

Western airlines have been banned from crossing Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 but Chinese carriers are still free to fly shorter routes over the territory.

“Between Paris and Seoul, it can add up to three hours in flight time. If you’ve got a Chinese carrier that is flying over Russia, they’ve got an unfair advantage over us,” Ben Smith, chief executive of Air France-KLM, told the Financial Times.

Finnair chief executive Topi Manner also spoke with the publication and said that airlines were at a “significant” disadvantage.

Finnair was forced to rethink its flights to Asia after formerly relying on routes across the north of Russia to reach countries like Japan.

The Financial Times estimates that flights from Helsinki to Tokyo have increased to 13 hours from nine and a half hours.

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