Global aviation has been absolutely wild in the past couple of days, as airlines are dealing with new airspace restrictions. Russian airlines are most impacted, as countries around the globe impose sanctions against Russia.
Aeroflot’s aborted flight to Verona
The European Union has banned Russian airlines from its airspace. This was a bit complicated for planes that were returning to Russia from abroad, as they had to take some circuitous routings. However, we haven’t seen too many flights leave Russia today while blatantly trying to violate rules.
One exception is Aeroflot’s flight SU7236, which filed a flight plan from Moscow, Russia (SVO), to Verona, Italy (VRN). Yes, Italy is in the European Union, at least last I checked. Interestingly that flight number isn’t one that Aeroflot usually uses, suggesting that this was some sort of a special flight.
Nonetheless, the Boeing 737-800 with the registration code VQ-BWF began its flight at around 2:30PM Moscow time. The direct air distance between the two airports is 1,372 miles, so ordinarily that flight would have taken around three hours.
Of course that’s not the routing the airline took, since stuff is complicated nowadays, and you can’t typically fly to destinations you’re banned from:
- The plane started flying east to avoid western Russia (as all airlines are right now), and then slowly started turning west, eventually flying over Georgia and then Turkey
- Roughly five hours after takeoff the plane made it to the border of Turkey and Greece, where the flight entered a holding pattern
- After holding for roughly 30 minutes, the plane once again turned east, and then entered another 10 minute holding pattern closer to Istanbul
- Well over six hours after taking off from Moscow, the plane diverted to Istanbul (IST); as of the time of this post, the plane is still on the ground there
What exactly happened here?
Aeroflot has operated some questionable routings as bans were put into place, and Aeroflot planes were abroad. For example, an Aeroflot A350 transited Canadian airspace hours after being banned, allegedly arguing that the flight was operating on humanitarian grounds.
But this situation is pretty black and white. An Aeroflot aircraft departed its hub to fly to a country it’s banned from operating to. So what was going on here exactly?
- Was Aeroflot again claiming this was a “humanitarian” flight? If so, was clearance not received for that in advance, or what?
- Since the plane is technically registered in Bermuda, did Aeroflot think it could get away with this, arguing it’s not a Russian aircraft?
- Does Aeroflot simply not care, and decided it might as well give the flight a shot and see what it can get away with?
The only semi-logical explanation I can come up with is that this airplane was being repossessed, since many leasing companies are having to terminate leases with Russian airlines. Maybe the paperwork wasn’t filed correctly?
I don’t have an answer, but this sure is mighty strange, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is curious what’s going on…
Aeroflot is now banned from dozens of countries, meaning the airline won’t be doing much international flying. Nonetheless the airline tried to operate a flight to Italy today, only to be turned away at the border between Turkey and Greece.
The Aeroflot 737 then diverted to Istanbul, presumably because it didn’t have much fuel left. I’m curious what happens with this flight next.
Anyone have any insights as to what was going on with this Aeroflot flight?