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Belavia Embraer 195 departing Berlin Brandenburg Airport. (photo: AirlineGeeks|James Dinsdale)

Belavia Faces Mass Schedule Changes Following Ryanair Interception

Following the weeks’ worth of backlash after Ryanair Flight 4978 was forcibly diverted from its path between Athens and Vilnius and Belarusian activist Roman Protasevich’s arrest on arrival, flag carrier Belavia is feeling the heat from the fallout. The airline over the past week has seen its route network dwindle after losing access to destinations within airspace that it has now been blocked from flying in, resulting in a route map now leans more eastward than westward.

In total, the airline has lost access to over 25 destinations in 20 countries as airspace restrictions and government crackdowns following the Ryanair incident have made getting to some destinations impossible. The destinations that have been lost range from Western European routes to London-Gatwick, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, and Amsterdam to routes to neighboring countries like Vilnius, Kaliningrad, and both Kyiv airports. The airline has listed early predictions for when the routes will resume, with dates ranging from Riga, Latvia on June 25 to as late as a handful of service resumptions on October 30th.

In an attempt to be flexible in the given situation, Belavia is offering passengers the ability to receive full refunds and waiving cancellation fees for flights that are not bound to happen. The lone criteria is that at least one leg of the trip is on a route that is currently suspended. Despite flights being canceled into October, the policy currently runs through July 1 as the airline claims “[Belavia] hope that the situation will stabilize.”

The airline has also started to amend the schedule to take into account destinations that can be reached by passing through alternative airspace. Most notably is the flight between Minsk and Istanbul, which will now pass north to avoid banned airspace in Ukraine. The airline has already noted the time increase in its online schedule and request passengers to check if this severely impacts their connections in either city.

With few options, the airline will rely on a route map banking heavily on traffic to the Middle East, and Commonwealth of Independent States to buoy themselves through what they had hoped would be a popular travel season. Of the 21 destinations still viable for the flag carrier, ten are inside of neighboring Russia. Despite losing Kaliningrad due to flight restrictions, the airline will still maintain flights to Kazan, Krasnodar, Novogrod, Rostov-on-Don, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Voronezh and all three Moscow airports. Of the non-Russian destinations, airports in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Georgia, and the Middle East round out the year-round operations.

As for competitors, either government restrictions or self-cancellations have added to Minsk’s woes of a depleted European route map. Neighboring airlines airBaltic and LOT Polish has suspended routes to Riga, Latvia and Warsaw, Poland, respectively. Lufthansa Group has removed flights to Vienna, Frankfurt, and Munich until further notice which were being operated by either Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines. On a smaller note, Ukrainian airline Motor Sich Airlines has temporarily stopped flights to Zaporizhzhia, removing the airline’s only destination outside of Ukrainian airspace.

The situation for Belavia remains dynamic, with news changing daily as the global protest of the country’s handling of Ryanair Flight 4978 draws new schedule changes and political backlash. While the airline claims it hopes the situation changes soon, it also notes that this is outside the realm of its control and can only react as rules and regulations change.

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