Cathay Pacific to resume flights over Russian airspace

A Cathay Pacific Airbus climbs out after takeoff.
Vismay Bhadra, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific, has announced they will restart overflying Russian airspace, several months after the Ukraine crisis led to airlines avoiding the airspace.

The announcement

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific (CX), have just recently said they’re set to restart routes overflying Russian airspace, from November 1st, the airline said to Bloomberg.

Following the tense situation in Ukraine for the past ten months, Asian carriers along with other major airlines, have avoided using Russian airspace in response to the unjustified actions in the conflict.

However, Cathay Pacific is now set to operate a polar route from New York to Hong Kong, which will overfly the far eastern parts of Russia, helping reduce flight time by a few hours. Cathay Pacific reasoned the crossing of Russian airspace a matter of strong winds and payload issues.

Since March, Cathay Pacific have avoided Russian airspace, greatly increasing flight time on select routes as well as increasing fuel costs, but will eventually be reduced if the airline starts to overfly the airspace on all flights.

Cathay Pacific statement

In a statement given to Bloomberg, Cathay Pacific officials said that: “There are other major airlines overflying Russian airspace and there are no sanctions which prevent Cathay Pacific overflying Russia. The Polar Route provides a safe, direct and the fastest flight experience to our customers traveling from the East Coast of North America to Hong Kong.”

Safety concerns?

While airspace sanctions mostly apply to the western and European countries, Asian carriers like ANA, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines, willingly stopped using the airspace for flights due to safety concerns.

According to reports from Bloomberg, on October 28th, Cathay Pacific issued an operational notice to its pilots, stating that flights to North America over the airspace, would facilitate a safe and more efficient operation for the carrier’s crew and passengers.

According to recent Flightradar24 data, Cathay Pacific’s flight from JFK to Hong Kong on October 30th, used just under 17,5 hours on the journey, which overflew the northern parts of Canada, before routing south-east, just avoiding Russian airspace.

The airspace-ban consequences

One month ago, British carrier Virgin Atlantic, decided to shut down their Hong Kong services and office, due to increased operational costs with the evasion of Russian airspace.

However, this is not the only airline the airspace restrictions have had on airlines, as flight times on flights previously overflying Russian airspace, has increased greatly, further costing the airlines more in fuel and other operational costs.

Finnair was one of the airlines who saw possibilities by the airspace closure however, as their services from Tokyo Narita, now overflies the North Pole on the path to Helsinki, taking around 12 hours. Finnair started making the most out of the airspace sanctions already 8 months ago, and is continuing to do so, to this day.


The whole situation comes off as a bit diffused, giving that Cathay Pacific has remained outside of Russian airspace until now. However, a slight reduction in operational costs is understandable, given that the airline is still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the worldwide aviation industry hard.

With Cathay Pacific calling the procedure of overflying the airspace safe, they are still planning the flights without dependency on any airports within Russia, and won’t accept an eventual consideration of using one.

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