Canceled flights, long detours – that’s what war means for travelers

Canceled flights, long detours – that’s what war means for travelers

Starts and landings have been cancelled, passenger planes fly wide around the country. After the Russian attack, Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights “because of the high security risk”.

This now has consequences for travelers. The airlines in the Lufthansa Group (which also includes Eurowings) normally offer 47 weekly flights to the Eastern European country – including Kiev, Odessa and Lviv. These are suspended until March 26th. The low-cost airline Wizz also writes that all flights to Ukraine have been canceled until further notice.

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The measures brought back memories of July 2014: At that time, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people. According to Dutch investigative authorities, pro-Russian rebels were responsible for shooting down the civilian plane.

When asked, Easyjet emphasizes that the flight program and route network will remain unaffected by the current events.

Hotel refunds are unlikely

Canceled flights, closed accommodation: Those who are affected can at least cancel their trip free of charge, experts explain. “Airlines have to make a refund within seven days of being asked to do so,” says Oliver Buttler, legal expert at the Baden-Württemberg consumer advice center. Travelers should request reimbursement of the ticket price in writing, preferably by email or registered mail, stating the relevant flight details and account number.

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Destinations, prices, insurance

To what extent hotels will make a repayment on site is difficult to estimate, says Buttler. “Even if a contract was concluded under German law and there is an obligation to reimburse, you have to expect that no refund will be made due to the current situation.” After all, operations have been discontinued and payment transactions are restricted.

Package travelers are traditionally better off. “Travel providers can neither guarantee the safety of travelers nor is it even possible to carry out the trips,” says Buttler. The Federal Foreign Office has issued a travel warning. If the travel providers have not yet contacted the travelers themselves, holidaymakers should cancel the trip immediately.

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Anyone who no longer wants to board a plane out of sheer fear is not entitled to withdraw free of charge. If the flight takes place and there are no threats of restrictions in the destination country, consumers would have to bear the cancellation costs.

Compensation for flight delays

However, the war is also having an impact on other routes to and from Europe. Machines have to fly around the Ukrainian airspace. According to the Lufthansa Group, connections to Moscow, India and Asia are affected. “Sometimes a longer flight time is recorded, with individual flights to Russia the timing is shifting,” explains a company spokesman when asked. The company is observing developments very closely and is able to react at very short notice.

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dpatopbilder - February 24, 2022, Ukraine, Kiev: A woman sits on her luggage while waiting at the train station to leave the city.  Russian troops have launched their expected attack on Ukraine.  Photo: Emilio Morenatti/AP/dpa +++ dpa picture radio +++

If there are flight delays due to the diversions, passengers are usually entitled to compensation under the EU Air Passenger Rights Regulation – at least if the flight takes off or lands in the EU. In the case of a flight delay of more than three hours on long-distance journeys, airlines usually have to pay compensation of up to 600 euros.

The blocking of the entire Russian airspace, through which numerous passenger and cargo routes between Europe and Asia pass, would have a far greater effect. This would eliminate many of the fastest routes, says Michael Trinkwalder from the Tübingen company A3M, a service provider for crisis and early warning information for travel.

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Russia has already closed its airspace to aircraft from Great Britain. All machines that own, lease or operate a company related to or based in Great Britain are affected, said the Russian aviation authority Rosaviazia. Moscow was reacting to London’s decision to ban the Russian airline Aeroflot from British airspace.

Poland and the Czech Republic block their airspace

According to IAG, the parent company of British Airways, the effects are currently not great. “We currently only fly to a small number of destinations in Asia and can reroute our flights,” IAG CEO Luis Gallego told Reuters.

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A Ukrainian serviceman is seen at positions on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. Picture taken February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

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However, it does not have to stay with the ban only for the British. “Russia has threatened in the past to close its airspace to Western airlines,” says Trinkwalder. “This time, as a reaction to renewed massive sanctions, this threat could be put into practice.” That would be another heavy blow for the already battered European aviation industry, says the expert.

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The danger of a Russian reaction seems great. Poland and the Czech Republic have closed their respective airspaces to Russian airlines in the wake of the Russian attack on Ukraine. The Polish government said the ban would come into effect at midnight. The Czech Minister of Transport, Martin Kupka, said that his country would no longer allow Russian planes to cross the border after midnight. The Polish airline LOT announced that it had suspended its flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Shortly thereafter, the Russian airline S7 announced that it would cancel all flights to Europe for a good two weeks. The connections to 16 cities, including Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich, are affected until March 13th.

Oil price could make tickets more expensive

In addition, all holidaymakers are threatened with long-term hardship. The war pushed oil prices to an eight-year high. This should also make kerosene more expensive – and consumers would have to expect higher ticket prices.

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To what extent the increased kerosene prices will affect the costs for consumers cannot yet be estimated, says Buttler. “This certainly depends on the extent to which the other major oil-producing countries such as the OPEC countries will increase production to compensate for Russia’s share of production,” says the expert.

Neither Lufthansa nor Easyjet wanted to commit to the extent to which the effects of the war would affect the upcoming Easter vacation. It is said that no forecasts are possible at the moment.

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