Lufthansa is the latest airline to take the precaution of not flying to Ukraine, as rumors of war grow louder. It is still not clear whether it is the insurance firms for the carriers that are driving these decisions by threatening to drop coverage of those flying within Ukrainian airspace.
Ukraine said on Monday about 10 airlines had stopped flying there amid U.S. warnings of an attack by Russian forces massed on its border, but insisted its air corridors were still open and flying to the East European country was safe.
Germany’s Lufthansa said it was halting flights to Ukraine from Monday, joining KLM which has already done so.
Scandinavian airline SAS also suspended weekly flights while Air France has decided to cancel Tuesday flights between Paris and Kyiv as a “precautionary measure”.
“The current cancellation of flights by a number of foreign airlines is dictated solely by the information aggravation of the situation, and not by real changes in flight safety,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov told a news briefing.
He did not name the airlines and said that “the state is working to replace cancelled flights”.
Kubrakov said Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) had already opened ticket sales and increased the capacity of aircraft on additional flights from Kyiv to Munich and Geneva, which Lufthansa was unable to operate.
UIA said 13 planes were still active. The airline has a total of 26 aircraft in its fleet but nine of those left the country last week for storage sites in Europe – including seven on Feb. 14 alone, according to Flightradar24 tracking data.
The exodus came after two Ukrainian airlines disclosed problems in securing insurance for some of their flights as Russia masses a huge military force on its border.
Russia and Ukraine both hinted at fresh diplomatic efforts to avoid conflict on Monday, but Ukraine’s biggest airline said its insurers had already terminated cover for at least some of its aircraft on flights inside Ukrainian airspace.
One insurance firm denied airlines were pulling out due to a lack of cover, however.
“We continue to support many airlines that fly into the region,” said Bruce Carman, chief underwriting officer at Hive Aero in London.
UIA operates a mixture of Boeing 737 medium-haul passenger planes and a smaller fleet of Embraer E190/195 regional jets. Three larger long-distance Boeing jets were mothballed during the pandemic.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London, Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Nick Macfie)