The Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which has been ongoing since 2014, expanded to cover the entire territory of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 when Russia openly launched a military incursion.
Many states such as Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as Romania and Slovenia closed their national airspace to Russian aircraft. This also refers to aircraft owned, registered or controlled by Russia. This can also affect, for example, cargo planes that are currently leased by other countries to offer charter flights, for example. According to the ministry, the ban will initially apply for three months.
Russia's largest airline, Aeroflot, announced that all flights to European destinations have been cancelled until further notice. Flights to some Central American destinations have been cancelled due to the closure of Canadian airspace.
Russia responded by announcing that aircraft from Germany and 35 other countries, including all 27 members of the EU, as well as the US and Canada, among others, are no longer allowed to fly over Russian territory.
Flights for humanitarian purposes are exempt from the ban.
Flight cancellations, diversions and delays
The airspace and landing restrictions have led to a large number of flight cancellations for many airlines. Cargo flights are also affected. The ban on overflight of Russian territory thus also impacts air cargo shipments on the popular trade route from Asia to Europe and vice versa.
At many global hubs, there is a major backlog and rising air cargo rates due to capacity reductions and flight rotations. Many
routes have to be rerouted via the south, also avoiding flying over areas of tension in the Middle East.
Extended flight routes on Europe-Asia connections
Many connections between Europe and Asia normally pass through Russian airspace. Now many airlines choose a route south of Russia and Ukraine instead, which means that flight times are extended by 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
The average transport time for door-to-door deliveries on this route is still five to six days.
An example of an extended flight route is the popular route between Germany and China. The chart shows the changed flight route and associated extended flight routes for the connection from Frankfurt am Main, Germany (FRA) to Shanghai Pudong Intl' Airport, China (PVG).
Low capacity for large airfreight shipments
In addition to extended flight times, the capacity for airfreight and charter shipments has decreased.
This is partly due to the fact that the Ukrainian airline Antonov currently uses its five AN-124 aircraft exclusively for humanitarian purposes. Another reason is that the world's largest cargo aircraft of the manufacturer, the Antonov-225 Mriya, was unfortunately destroyed in the course of the clashes. At the end of last year, it was still delivering SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests to Germany on behalf of Röhlig.
On the other hand, due to the sanctions, there is also a lack of capacity on Russian airlines, which mainly offer charters with large transport volumes. This results in low capacities in the USA and Europe, especially for oversized shipments. This is currently making project cargo considerably more difficult and causing delays for many industries, such as the energy sector.
How the current situation affects air freight costs
The cost of air freight transport is usually determined primarily by supply and demand. Due to the reduced supply of charter flights and air freight shipments, air freight rates are currently on the rise. In addition, airlines have started to erode existing Fuel Surcharge (FSC) regulations and determine surcharges by the level of the Fuel Price Index, which is calculated and published every Monday. For customers, this means that the cost of air freight transport may continue to rise as fuel prices continue to increase.
What our customers can do now
Our air freight experts are in close contact with airlines and shippers. The Röhlig team will therefore be happy to inform and advise you in detail about all changes and work out the best solution for your air freight transports together with you - even in this extraordinary situation.
Contact us now for more information.
Global Operations Status Report
Customer updates on operations, measures and transport solutions
Find current supply chain restrictions/challenges due to the current situation in the Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.