European nations and Canada moved on Sunday (Feb 27) to shut their airspace to Russian aircraft, an unprecedented step aimed at pressuring President Vladimir Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.
Aeroflot said it would cancel all flights to European destinations after E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the European Union had decided to close its airspace to Russian traffic.
The United States is considering similar action, but has yet to make a final decision, according to U.S. officials. The U.S. government said citizens should consider leaving Russia immediately on commercial flights, citing an increasing number of airlines cancelling flights as countries closed their airspace to Russia.
The ban on Russian jets comes as the airline industry continues to grapple with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic that is still undermining global demand for travel.
Germany, Spain and France joined Britain, the Nordics and Baltic states in declaring bans on Russian use of their airspace, a major escalation in a tactic by mostly NATO allies to wage economic war against Putin in retaliation for the invasion.
The West, led by the United States, also unveiled sweeping new financial sanctions on Russia.
Russia is now widely expected to retaliate further against the air blockades and other sanctions. It has already responded to the earliest European airspace bans with its own edicts barring airlines from Britain, Bulgaria and Poland.
Without access to Russia's airways, experts say carriers will have to divert flights south while also avoiding areas of tension in the Middle East.
A reciprocal airspace ban by Russia and the United States would cause longer flight times for U.S. carriers and could require crew changes on East Coast routes to Asia, said U.S.-based analyst Robert Mann of R.W. Mann & Company, Inc.
It could make certain flights too costly to operate for U.S. carriers. "It would just add a lot of expense," he said.