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Dwindling flight options remain as Ukraine faces uncertain civil aviation future

Feb. 22, 2022
3 min read
Ukraine Airlines 737-800
Dwindling flight options remain as Ukraine faces uncertain civil aviation future
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As the situation in Ukraine has deteriorated, there are still commercial flights — for now.

As Russian troops began entered separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours, there has been no significant change in air service to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, and its two main airports, Kyiv Boryspil (KBP) and Kyiv Zhuliany (IEV), which represent the main aviation hubs for the country.

Previously, some European carriers announced they were suspending service to Kyiv. KLM terminated its service to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) last week, and sister airline Air France made the same announcement yesterday for its service to Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG). The three main Lufthansa Group carriers, Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian, have also suspended service to Ukraine's capital.

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There are still plenty of airlines that operate to Ukraine, but given the country's uncertain security situation going forward, it's unclear how long this service will continue. Ukraine International Airlines, the nation's flag carrier, is still operating some service, but it ferried five Boeing 737s to Spain last week. Other airlines that continue to operate include major European ultra-low-cost carriers Ryanair and Wizz Air as well as Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Air Baltic, LOT Polish Airlines and FlyDubai. No American carriers fly to Ukraine.

With so much uncertainty, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is urging U.S. citizens to depart.

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"There is a strong likelihood that any Russian military operations would severely restrict commercial air travel," the embassy wrote in an alert.

Ukraine is the largest country entirely in Europe, by area. The separatist areas seeing Russian military action are approximately 350 to 400 miles east of Kyiv. This includes the site of the 2014 shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. As a result of the shootdown, many airlines have avoided overflying that area since that time.

The decision to terminate service — or even to avoid Ukrainian airspace — comes down to the risk assessments airlines make and, especially, insurance coverage, said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive.

"Many of the airlines involved who would normally fly through that airspace would lose their insurance coverages — their commercial insurance coverages for passenger liability, aircraft hull, etc.," Mann told TPG in an interview.

More: How pilots deal with sudden airspace closures

Further deterioration of relations with Russia could affect overflight permits for existing Western carriers, Mann warned. Russia is by far the largest country in the world by area, and its airspace is transited by many airlines operating polar routes. But Russia could also stand to lose lucrative overflight fees if it bars Western airlines from operating in its airspace.

"That of course makes the problem not just a Europe-to-Southeast Asia sort of problem," he said. "It makes it a West Coast, of North America and in some cases, Europe to Asia, over the poles problem. And that makes the problem much wider, but of course, it also costs Russia much more in terms of air navigation charge losses."

Featured image by A Boeing 737 - 800 plane of Ukraine International Airlines UIA taking off at the Boryspil International Airport near Kyiv, Ukraine on 7 September, 2019. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees