The U.S. will close off its airspace to Russian commercial flights, two people familiar with the Biden administration’s discussions confirmed Tuesday — just days after the European Union and Canada imposed similar restrictions.
The White House had previously signaled that it was not leaning toward shuttering U.S. airspace. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said banning Russian planes was “not off the table” but that it could have negative effects on U.S. airlines that fly over Russia. Russia has retaliated against countries that closed their airspace by imposing its own restrictions.
The EU and Canadian airspace limitation had already forced Russia’s airlines to discontinue most flights to North America. But one Aeroflot flight turned around after nearing Canadian territory over the weekend once the country’s ban was in place, while a separate flight was mistakenly granted permission on Sunday to transit through its airspace. Canadian authorities said they would investigate the misstep.
Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. pilots and air carriers — which also applies to cargo operations — from flying over Belarus, Ukraine and portions of western Russia.
The U.S. airline industry had already been withdrawing from serving Russia. By Tuesday, American Airlines and United Airlinessuspended their flights over all Russian territory given the ongoing crisis.
Separately, American and Delta Air Lines had recently discontinued their partnerships with Russian carriers.
Russia leases its airspace for a fee to international airlines, but has restricted route options over its territory — which in some cases are a direct line for U.S. carriers operating in the lucrative markets between North America, India and eastern Asia.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news that the U.S. would close its airspace.