airBaltic unfazed by Siberian airspace closure

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In response to the third-phase of western sanctions imposed by the EU last week, Moscow is mulling a possible prohibition on European aviation companies flying in airspace above Siberia, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported Tuesday. But Latvian national airline airBaltic told LSM it is too early to comment on such a possibility.

Citing its regular service between Moscow and Simferopol, Crimea, the EU sanctions have already forced Russian discount airline Dobroļot to ground its planes Monday. The passenger carrier had no other choice after losing a new aircraft leasing contract with Boeing thanks to the newly-imposed restrictions on high-tech trade, prompting Moscow to consider shutting off its Siberian air corridor as a targeted countermeasure.

The Trans-Siberian air corridor is the shortest route for flights from Europe to Asia - and passenger airlines pay fees to Russia’s aviation flagship firm Aeroflot for access to it. The heaviest users of the airspace corridor are some of the leading national carriers from the EU like Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France. The cost savings for the use of the corridor are reported to be significant.  

The Trans-Siberian air corridor is also used by Latvian national airline airBaltic, its Vice President of Corporate Communications Janis Vanags confirmed to LSM’s Russian-language service Tuesday. However, he declined to comment further on the possibility of Russian officials taking the decision for counter-sanctions targeting the aviation sector.

"No formal decision has yet been made, so to comment on the situation would only be cause for further speculation. Currently, all flights are operating with full crews and no routes have been changed. The only place where we do not currently fly is eastern Ukraine," Vanags said.

Any final ruling on the closure of Russian airspace over Siberia must come jointly from the Foreign Affairs and Transport ministries of the Russian Federation. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova denied that any such proposal for counter-sanctions was being considered at the government level, reports Vedomosti.

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