Aviation Expert Predicts Canadian Impact of Airspace Closures and the Crisis in Ukraine: “This Will Set Back Recovery”

The ripple effect on travel and aviation of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has spread well beyond Europe’s borders.

Even to Canada. Not so much because Ottawa has closed Canadian airspace to Russian aircraft (and during the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, U.S. President Joe Biden followed suit, meaning that much of North American airspace is now denied to Russian operators.)

Skift reports that the “worst case” scenario for airlines is that Russia could close its airspace to overflights in response to sanctions, disrupting air traffic between Europe, North America and Asia. U.S. flights to Asia are already being rerouted to avoid Ukrainian airspace and the closed parts of Russian airspace, according to Skift.

Rob Kokonis, President & Managing Director, AirTrav Inc.
Rob Kokonis, President & Managing Director, AirTrav Inc.

Canadian aviation expert Robert Kokonis, president and managing director of AirTrav Inc., told Open Jaw that Canadian airlines and the entire industry are threatened by the invasion of Ukraine.

“This will set back recovery progress by a minimum of three months and maybe more, depending on the extent and duration of Russia’s war in Ukraine,” he said.

Canadian operators forced to avoid overflights face longer routes, with correspondingly higher fuel costs - not to mention that that extra fuel is costing a lot more due to the crisis, too.

“You know I love stats,” he told Open Jaw, “So I ran some airspace analytics owing Russia airspace closures, along with avoidance of Belarus airspace, and continued commercial bypass of Afghan airspace.”

The added time and distance Kokonis calculated for some impacted routes (in the direction noted, as routes are different to and from destinations due to winds and other factors)  is remarkable. Some routes may see flights lengthen by an hour and a half!

YYZ “to” DEL

  • + 11%
  • + 90 minutes flying time

YYZ “to” ICN

  • + 7%
  • + 50 minutes flying time

YVR “to” DEL

  • + 11%
  • + 90 minutes flying time

“I am concerned about flying to the Indian subcontinent, Middle East, and especially, to Europe this summer,” Kokonis told Open Jaw.

“I can only hope that Russia pulls back and the conflict does not further escalate to draw in NATO or the US. The consequences are unfathomable for the world, and it goes without saying that such escalation would be devastating for the airline and travel industry.”

Not all routes or Canadian travel will be directly affected, he noted.

Aside from those routes above, most Canadian flights will not be directly impacted by airspace closures, he added. Kokonis doesn’t expect domestic, U.S., Sun/ Latin America,  Western Europe, North Africa, or Australia/New Zealand markets to have routes impacted.

However, the indirect effects on Canadian air travel and travel recovery overall will be very damaging, he said.

“All aviation will be impacted by suppressed demand (travellers nervous, hence lower revenues) and higher costs (rising fuel costs on all routes owing crisis-driven oil price hikes, likely higher aircraft insurance rates, and higher air navigation service fees on re-routed flights),” Kokonis pointed out.

“The combination of lower demand, lower revenue, and higher costs are hitting the airline sector just as it was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Lynn Elmhirst


With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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