The State Department just closed the books on the last long-running airline-related diplomatic saga in Washington — Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Now, apparently, the government is turning its attention to a feud with Russia about so-called overflight rights.
In a warning to the Russian government, which recently made it difficult for U.S. cargo airlines to fly over its airspace, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Wednesday it will impose new requirements on Russian passenger and cargo airlines, obliquely warning they could lose their rights to fly to U.S. airports.
In the short term, not much is required of three Russian companies — Aeroflot Airlines, AirBridgeCargo Airlines, and Yakutia Airlines. Within seven days, they merely have to give the U.S. government detailed information about each flight they intend to operate, including aircraft type, frequency, airports, and arrival and departure time.
The filing leaves little question about why the government wants the information. It specifically references Russian obstinance about allowing U.S. airlines to fly over its airspace. Many flights from the U.S. and Europe to Asia fly over Russia, as it’s often by far the quickest and cheapest route. But in recent months, Russia has made it difficult for some airlines, particularly cargo carriers, to use preferred routes.
“We are taking this action in response to the failure of the Government of the Russian Federation to grant U.S. carriers authorizations to overfly Russia as provided by the Air Transport Service Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation of 1994, as amended,” the Department of Transportation said in the filing.
The U.S. government has been trying for some time to reach a long-term agreement to permit passenger and cargo airlines to fly over Russia. According to reports, last month Russia said it would allow U.S. airlines to continue using three of four typical overflight routes until at least Oct. 28, as the two nations tried to negotiate a long-term deal. But cargo carriers preferred the fourth route that was not included, Bloomberg reported.
The Department of Transportation’s filing indicated this was not acceptable.
“U.S. carriers are now experiencing significant disruption to all-cargo services between Europe and Asia and have had to adjust service to utilize routings that require significant additional time and cost (fuel, crew, reduced payload, etc.), reducing competition and jeopardizing established slot access at Asia’s and Europe’s busiest airports,” it said. “Some flights may be canceled as no longer commercially viable.”
The Department of Transportation also said in the filing it is having trouble engaging the Russian government on a long-term solution for passenger and cargo airlines. It said Russia called off the last meeting, set for April 18 and 19, and has not made an effort to reschedule it.
Here is the DOT’s filing
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Photo credit: Aeroflot and two other Russian airlines will have to share more information with the U.S. government. Pictured is an Aeroflot Airbus aircraft. Aeroflot