Airlines Starting to Avoid Russian Airspace After Syrian Bombings

US airline overflight rights for Russia reportedly were set to expire this coming Tuesday, with US-Russian talks not rescheduled until after that. And that was before US airstrikes in Syria.

With tensions running high is appears that several American Airlines flights are already avoiding Russian airspace.

Today’s American Airlines Dallas – Beijing flight AA263 routed out to Los Angeles and made a stop before being scheduled to continue to China. American Airlines AA125 from Dallas to Hong Kong diverted to Los Angeles as well. So did American Airlines AA187 from Chicago to Beijing.


American Airlines AA187

A poster at airliners.net writes,

Just heard from a crew chief that some of the American Airline China flights from DFW and ORD are being diverted to LAX and fueled, recrewed and rerouted to avoid Russian airspace.

If Russian overflight rights are indeed lost, without the ability to fly Polar routes East Coast – Asia will become much more problematic.

I reached out to American to explain the operational issues, and they refused to comment and directed me to industry lobbying organization Airlines for America instead. I will update if they respond.

Update: Airlines for America shared the following statement,

A4A and our carriers are closely monitoring what is a fluid situation. Carriers continuously monitor and evaluate airspace issues and communicate potential changes to our customers and employees. We are working to minimize any potential disruption for passengers and shippers.

Update: I’ve removed the question mark from the title. There are also now passengers who report being told the reason for their re-routes was to avoid Russia.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary
    I wonder if Cathay pacific is affected . They codeshare flights with Anerican on Cathay metal.

  2. @ Gary — Nice to see economic proof that Trump is an idiot. This should be great for our economy and the environment. Plus, think of all the extra time Scott Pruitt will now have to spend mile-running to China.

  3. They’re saying they’re re-routing flights to Beijing and Hong Kong. But they aren’t saying why and that’s what I was asking them to confirm.

  4. So is this the preamble of Russia’s threat to revenge the recent Syria attacks? How come that only AA is the only US airline avoiding Russian airspace at the moment? What are the other US or British or French airlines doing? Lots of questions! If the Russian airspace is indeed closed or restricted for some Western countries, well I believe some FF who love ultra long haul flights finally get what they want.
    Still remember from the 70s and 80s when the quickest route from Europe to Japan or Korea was to fly over Canada and Anchorage, Alaska.
    When flying to HKG meant flying around Russian, Iranian and Chinese airspace…these are deja vu moments!

  5. @Michael que: Codeshares just allow airlines to sell seats on each others’ flights under their own flight number, but codeshare partners do not generally coordinate or influence each other’s actual operations, such as what airspace they go through. So for example United might as a U.S. carrier avoid Iranian airspace, but Lufthansa flights do not, and United’s codeshare flights operated by Lufthansa (e.g., Frankfurt-Delhi) would not be subject to United’s own restrictions.

  6. While I can understand the lack of comment, it seems a touch strange that American would outsource communications to a lobbying group.

  7. How many USA airline flights must enter Russian airspace to operate? It has to be a small number. I assume it’s unnecessary for any flight to Japan. It’s certainly necessary on certain westbound flights from the eastern half of the USA (the polar flights) to China. Going east, it always seems like they avoid a polar route to pick up a tailwind. Is it necessary to overfly Russia on any China flights from the USA west coast?

    This is obviously stupid retaliation, as Russia makes good money from these overflights. For this reason, Cuba has allowed overflights “forever.” Of course, Russia often does things that seem contrary to their national interest when they feel they’re being disrespected.

  8. I just flew NRT-FCO round trip on AZ. Essentially this flight travels 8 of the 12 hours through Russia. I’m glad the Italians aren’t in the same boat.

  9. If AA replace its b788 to b789 for these routes, are they able to fly non stop to Beijing? I mean going from US towards Japan/Korea to Beijing.

  10. UA and DL flights are still flying through Russian airspace, business as usual..have not heard AA is normalizing its TPAC traffic yet..
    As well as BA and AF still flying over Siberia without any restrictions.

    Would Russia really close their airspace for some western airlines? That will be a major blow for the airlines affected! You have to fly longer routes and spend more money on fuel, meaning higher plane tickets, meaning less pax, meaning bankruptcy and chaos..

    The next cold war is starting to take shape????

  11. Interesting. Russia gets a lot of money for overflights — with any NA flights to Japan and Korea, it’s a balancing act of shorter distances versus airspace fees. On that note, I’m a bit surprised it’s AA doing this. It’s not much of a diversion to fly dfw-hkg around kamchatka, but ex-dtw flights would require a much longer detour to avoid Russian airspace. It would add at least an hour to dfw-pek, but it’s still well within 787 range. I’m curious as to what economics are driving this.

  12. @ andy 11235

    ..it is not economics..it is more a political reason..Russia care less if AA can fly economical routes or not..they are just on this political game one of the victims..

  13. Once upon a time, the Soviet Union didn’t allow any 747 to overfly Russia because they didn’t build a corresponding jumbo. Flights from Europe to Japan and vice-versa stopped in Anchorage for refueling. Passengers were offloaded to a special terminal filled with duty-free and souvenir shops with inflated prices.

    The only good thing was that, before the internet was available to civilians, we US passengers could make phone calls to the rest of the USA at domestic rates.

  14. Just noticed that todays flight UA 48 EWR-BOM is showing on flight aware as blocked for 17 h 31m.

    Looks like they are avoiding Russian airspace.

  15. The AA flights that were diverted yesterday look like they are back to normal today, flying over Russia routes.

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