Japan’s JAL and ANA cancel all European flights on Thursday

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc said on Thursday they would cancel all flights to and from Europe, citing security concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine .

FILE PHOTO: A Japan Airlines plane is seen from the international terminal at Sydney Airport, as countries respond to the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Sydney, Australia, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliot

The airlines, which normally use Russian airspace for their flights within Europe, join a growing number of carriers that have canceled or re-routed flights between Europe and North Asia in the wake of the crisis.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation, but considering the current situation in Ukraine and the different risks, we have decided to cancel the flights,” a JAL spokesman told Reuters.

ANA Cargo’s website said the suspension of flights was due to the “strong possibility that its operations may not be able to fly over Russia due to the current situation in Ukraine”.

Airlines from the European Union and Canada have been banned from Russian airspace in response to their restrictions on Russian airlines, but Japan has not made a similar announcement to date.

ANA and JAL operate around 60 flights a week in Russian airspace between Tokyo and London, Paris, Frankfurt and Helsinki, according to a spokesperson for flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Finnair, which had initially canceled flights to Tokyo after losing access to Russian airspace, announced on Wednesday that it would resume four weekly Helsinki-Tokyo flights with a new route and a 13-hour flight time, up from about 9.5 hours ago.

Longer airline routes will increase fuel costs and reduce the amount of cargo that can be carried in a tight air cargo market that is exacerbating pandemic-related issues in the global supply chain.

Korean Air Lines was still flying over Russian airspace on Thursday, according to Reuters monitoring by FlightRadar24, but Taiwanese carriers are now avoiding Russian airspace and flying over China and Central Asia.

ANA said it would also cancel eight flights to and from London, Paris and Frankfurt on Friday.

A Tokyo-Brussels flight due to carry vaccines on the return trip will be routed over Central Asia, he said, adding that all cargo flights will operate.

Reporting by Maki Shiraki in Tokyo and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Written by David Dolan; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Edwina Gibbs