Aeroflot, Russia's flag carrier, has announced that all foreign flights would be halted beginning March 8, with the exception of flights to Belarus, as Moscow confronts a slew of Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.
The move came after Russia's civil aviation body, Rosaviatsiya, suggested that all Russian airlines functioning foreign-leased planes halt both cargo and passenger airlines abroad, mentioning a high risk of rental planes being impounded as a result of Western sanctions prohibiting plane leasing to Russia.
Rosaviatsiya's advice does not apply to Russian airlines that fly Russian planes or international carriers that aren't in danger of being seized. It also doesn't apply to international airlines from nations that haven't placed sanctions on Russia or blocked Russian planes from flying within their airspace.
According to Aviation Week, a trade publication, more than half of Russia's commercial aircraft are leased.
“New circumstances hampers flight operation," according to an Aeroflot statement on the "temporary suspension of all international flights beginning March 8." All internal routes, as well as flights to Belarus, whose president, Alexander Lukashenko, is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, would remain intact, according to the statement.
Passengers scheduled to leave Russia after March 6 and return after March 8 will have their return tickets cancelled, according to Russia's largest state-owned airline. One-way ticket holders will be able to fly up until March 8.
Rosaviatsia also advised Russians returning home from abroad to fly through countries that have not joined the sanctions, such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Serbia.