A Russian government plane heading to Basel in Switzerland from Moscow had to fly for nine hours, instead of the usual three, due to European airspace restrictions. The flight was reportedly on its way to pick up Russian diplomatic staff representing the county at the Council of Europe at Strasbourg in France.
The Russian-built Ilyushin Il-96-300 aircraft took off from Moscow Vnukovo Airport on Wednesday at 10:27 a.m. It landed at Basel at 7:39 p.m (local Swiss time 6:39 p.m.), reported Swiss news outlet BZ.
A Twitter post from the flight-tracking website Flightradar24 said the flight took an extra six hours. Without airspace restrictions, the same flight would take about three hours.
According to reports, the plane is used to transport members of the Russian government and the President of the Republic.
On Wednesday, it took an unusual route, flying over Russia, Georgia and Turkey before going south over the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding Eastern European airspace.
It then flew along the coast of North Africa, and finally turned north via Tunisia. It then flew over France and Switzerland. Both countries gave the plane special permission to fly over their airspace. A spokesman for the Federal Office of Civil Aviation told BZ that the plane had received a special permit, a so-called “diplomatic clearance,” for the overflight and landing, both from Switzerland and France. The purpose of the flight is to move embassy staff.
The plane flew back to Moscow on another nine-hour journey, retracing its route after picking up the Russian staff members.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, European Union had closed its airspace to Russian planes as part of sanctions. This isn’t the first time that Russian aircraft are forced to fly extra hours due to closed airspace. A Russian airline Aeroflot bound from Belgrade in Serbia to Moscow flew extra three hours, via Bulgaria and across Turkey to get to Russian airspace. The detour took five hours and 45 minutes while the usual time was two and 30 minutes.
Not just Russian flights, other European countries too had to divert their planes to avoid Russian airspace due to the sanctions. While Australian airline Qantas has changed its flight path from Australia to London by flying over the Middle East and Southern Europe instead of Russia, British Airways has adjusted its route from New Delhi to London.