[UPDATE] Travel hit intensifies amid Ukraine crisis

By Luke Barras-hill |

Ukraine International Airlines has suspended scheduled and charter flights after Ukraine’s airspace closed. Source: Shutterstock/M101 Studio.

[UPDATED 25.02.22] The fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on global aviation is continuing apace as the crisis worsens.

Russia’s federal air transport agency Rosaviatsiya has today (25 February) imposed an airspace ban on UK-operated aircraft, including transfer flights.

The retaliatory step comes after the UK yesterday (24 February) moved to ban Russian carrier Aeroflot from flying to the UK as part of a package of sanctions aimed at Russia.

Rosaviatsiya said in a statement on its website: “This measure was taken in accordance with the provisions of the Intergovernmental Air Services Agreement between Russia and the UK as a response to unfriendly decisions of the UK Aviation Authorities regarding the restriction on regular flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with Russia or registered in Russia.”

Russia and Belarus have closed parts of their airspaces to civil aviation flights and Moldova has closed its airspace.


As reported yesterday, Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights as Russia mounted a ‘full-scale’ military operation in a grave flashpoint for the European and international communities.

The decision to shut Ukraine’s airspace was made due to the ‘high-risk’ to civil aviation security and became effective from 00.45 UTC (2:45 Kyiv time) on Thursday, confirmed the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, with airport operations suspended.

It said: “The provision of air traffic services to civilian users of the airspace of Ukraine is suspended. We will additionally inform about changes in the use of Ukraine’s airspace.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin authorised a ‘special military operation’ in the eastern region of Ukraine on early Thursday morning, signalling a watershed moment in the escalating conflict.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had issued an urgent bulletin to civil aviation operators serving the Lviv, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Simferopol and Odessa regions in light of the ‘active conflict zone’.

“Under these circumstances, the airspace and critical infrastructure, including airports, are exposed to military activities which result in safety risks for civil aircraft,” read the bulletin. “In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft. The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.”


AirBaltic is among a number of carriers to have cancelled or suspended itineraries to and from Ukraine.

Operations at capital Kyiv’s Boryspil and Sikorsky (Zhuliany) International Airports have been suspended.

Latvian carrier airBaltic has cancelled its flights until the end of 13 March.

“The safety of our passengers and employees is the main priority of airBaltic,” it announced. “AirBaltic is evaluating the current situation before each flight and following the recommendations issued by official authorities. airBaltic is flexible and ready to adjust its flight schedule if necessary.”

The airline previously temporarily suspended overnight flights to and from the Ukraine.

It is one of a number of carriers to have cancelled or suspended itineraries, joining the likes of Wizz Air, Air France, Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa.

Kyiv-headquartered flag carrier Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) said in an updated statement issued today: “Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) has reviewed the suspension of all scheduled and charter flights to / from Ukraine – flights will not be operated until February 27, 2022 inclusive. As previously reported, the relevant steps by the carrier are due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace for civilian airspace users from 24.02.2022 and the need to minimise any risks to passenger safety.

“UIA emphasises that it maintains and will maintain relations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine. Given the difficult situation in martial law, the airline draws attention to the possibility of forced delays and difficulties in feedback on service channels of communication with passengers and counts on understanding.”


Military incursions and other aspects of the crisis continue to unravel each hour in a volatile scenario, much of the detail of which remains unknown and is difficult to verify.

What is clear is a serious military campaign by Russia is underway, including in capital Kyiv.

TRBusiness will continue to update on the situation with regards to travel and travel retail as the situation plays out.

Sources operating duty free and duty paid shops across Ukraine and Russia have been contacted for comment, including Gebr. Heinemann that has operations at Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, Kyiv Zhuliany and Lviv Airports, where it runs shops in a joint venture with local partner BF&GH.

Approached by TRBusiness, Dufry declined to comment and stated it was ‘assessing the situation’.

In comments shared with TRBusiness, Simon Forde, General Manager at BF&GH said: “Our first concern is the safety and wellbeing of our teams. Our offices, airport shops and the warehouse are all closed.”

Oleg Zhytomyrsky, Sales Director Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Gebr. Heinemann, added: “The unfolding events are deeply concerning. Like the rest of the world, we monitor events in the Ukraine as best we can and continue to hope for a quick and peaceful resolution.”

Oliver Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe: “As the Russia – Ukraine crisis situation unfolds, the effect upon aviation is apparent. In terms of connectivity and mobility, airspace is closing with clear implications for travellers, for flights and for airports.”


The Central & Eastern European Travel Retail Association (CEETRA), which represents companies supplying or retailing goods to travellers in DF&TR outlets across the likes of  Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, had the following to say in a statement released via LinkedIn.

“Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova all have borders to the Ukraine, a country at war. Many of our members in these countries are directly affected by the crisis.

“The closing of roads and airspace and the interruption of vital transport links in the Middle of Europe affects our private and business life to an extent we cannot foresee at this point. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the crisis.”

Re-sharing CEETRA’s post on LinkedIn, the European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC) commented: “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine and monitoring the situation carefully. Very sad and worrying times for all our members and partners involved, with also bigger repercussions on an already fragile international travel sector.”

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, the voice of Europe’s airports, said in a statement: “As the Russia – Ukraine crisis situation unfolds, the effect upon aviation is apparent. In terms of connectivity and mobility, airspace is closing with clear implications for travellers, for flights and for airports. Those airports in regions at the heart of the conflict are critically impacted as their operations, their personnel and their families deal with the immediacy of their changing environment.

“For every airport, the safety of passengers and personnel is paramount, and the swift, effective management of crisis situations is always to the fore when operations are disrupted. Our thoughts are with our colleagues as they respond to this emergency.”

The reverberations of the invasion continue to be felt across the globe’s economies, with the price of oil soaring to over $105 per barrel hitting airlines’ operating costs hard at a time when travel demand and load factors remain low due to the pandemic.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called the events in Ukraine ‘deeply saddening’ and said it hopes for ‘an early and peaceful resolution’ to the conflict.

Willie Walsh, Director General, shared the following on Twitter: “IATA is helping to facilitate the relevant and timely sharing of information with airlines from government and non-government sources to support airlines as they plan their operations around airspace closures in the Ukraine and parts of Russia.”

NATO members have pledged unprecedented sanctions in retaliation against Russia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the closure of its airspace comes a day after Kyiv Sikorsky International Airport unveiled the country’s first ‘fully-fledged’ duty free electronics store, offering averaging discounts of up to 15% versus the local market. Source: Kyiv International Airport.

These are unfolding in response to a rapidly deteriorating situation likely to have devastating economic and humanitarian consequences for Europe and beyond.

Following weeks of political brinkmanship, tensions between Moscow and the West threatened to boil over after Putin inked a decree on Monday recognising two Russia-backed separatist areas.

Click to enlarge. Source: Twitter/Flight Radar 24.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an impassioned address to the nation on Thursday in which he called on those possessing military experience to protect the state, at the same time confirming that casualties have been recorded.

In a televised statement broadcast by international media outlets, Zelenskyy said: “Ukraine is now defending itself. We will not give up our independence. [Russia] attacked our country early in the morning, just like fascist Germany did during World War II. Our countries are on two sides of history and Russia is on the side of evil.”

Global stock markets have shuddered violently since the invasion, with the FTSE, GDAX, Japan’s Nikkei 225, Dow and Nasdaq futures all shedding value. Russia’s RTS has been in freefall as the rouble slumped in value against the US dollar.

In his own address via state television, Putin warned that those who pose a threat to Russia’s sovereignty will experience an immediate response leading to ‘consequences never experienced in history’.

This is an updated version of an article first published yesterday (24 February).


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