After the U.S. State Department on Feb. 12 issued a do-not-travel
advisory for Ukraine and a day later suspended consular services at the U.S. embassy
in Kyiv, airlines that serve the country are watching the region closely as
governments throughout the world consider the prospect of a Russian invasion.
KLM on Saturday suspended service to Ukraine until further notice.
On Monday, Ukraine International Airlines moved five of its Boeing 737 aircraft
to Spain, citing its insurance company’s unwillingness to cover flights in
Ukrainian airspace. According to CNBC, Ukranian leisure-oriented carrier SkyUp
has experienced isolated flight diversions due to withdrawal of insurance
The U.S. will maintain a small consular presence in Lviv to handle
emergencies, but will not provide passport, visa or routine consular services.
U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine, and those who are already in
Ukraine—including corporate travelers—should depart immediately “using
commercial or other privately available transportation options,” the State
Department advisory read. Dozens of other countries similarly warned their
citizens, according to news reports.
Israeli carrier El Al Israel Airlines on Monday in a statement
said it was “allocating additional aircraft to assist thousands of
American citizens stuck in the Ukraine, which will allow them to travel back to
the U.S. via Tel Aviv.”
El Al said it was still operating scheduled service between Tel
Aviv and Kiev.
Latvian flag carrier AirBaltic on Monday announced it would add
additional flights on Tuesday and Wednesday departing Kyiv for Riga.
According to U.K. media outlet The Independent, the Ukrainian
government has pledged more than £450 million in insurance coverage from its
emergency reserves to keep planes in its airspace. Some European carriers,
including Air France and Lufthansa, as of Monday night were maintaining
scheduled service from Kyiv.
carriers have opted to steer clear of Ukraine since Russia was believed responsible for shooting down a
Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in 2014. In announcing its current flight suspensions,
KLM reminded the market that the carrier “has not been flying over the eastern
regions of Ukraine and Crimea since 2014.” British Airways does not
currently fly to the Ukraine and is not believed to be using the country’s
airspace for over-flying.
In the meantime, risk management companies have begun advising
clients to leave while flights are still available and preparing essential
workers for a swift exit plan via ground transportation should the situation
“We are advising all our Western clients with expats to take
advantage of commercial air and rail travel while those options, albeit
limited, are still available and operating,” said Global Guardian CEO Dale
Buckner. “In addition to helping clients prepare for evacuation, we are
also advising companies that have employees deemed essential in Ukraine and
cannot leave to have a communications plan and assets in place, like satellite
phones, in the event of a wide scale cyber-attack. They also need to reserve
vehicles now because those assets will be gone within the first 24-48 hours of
an invasion. Moving quickly is essential in the event borders of neighboring
countries become overwhelmed.”
Tuesday morning news reports noted progress in diplomacy discussions. According to the Associated Press, Russia said it was pulling back troops in some border areas, but no details were given on how many troops or from what areas.