* The carriers normally use Russian airspace for Europe flights
* Many airlines cancelling, rerouting Europe-north Asia flights
* Alternative routes add extra flying time, fuel costs (Updates with ANA’s cancellation of Saturday flights)
TOKYO, March 3 (Reuters) - Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc cancelled all flights to and from Europe on Thursday and cancelled or rerouted flights on Friday as well, citing safety concerns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
ANA also started to cancel some flights due to run on Saturday.
The airlines, which normally use Russian airspace for their Europe flights, join a growing number of carriers that have cancelled or rerouted flights between Europe and north Asia in the wake of the crisis.
“We are continuously monitoring the situation, but given the present situation in Ukraine and the different risks, we have decided to cancel flights,” a JAL spokesperson told Reuters.
ANA Cargo’s website said the suspension of flights was due to the “high possibility of its operations not being able to overfly Russia due to the current Ukraine situation.”
Airlines from the European Union and Canada have been banned from Russian airspace in response to their curbs on Russian airlines, but Japan has not made a similar announcement to date.
ANA and JAL operate about 60 flights per week through Russian airspace between Tokyo and London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Helsinki, according to a spokesperson for flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Finnair, which had initially cancelled its Tokyo flights after losing access to Russian airspace, said on Wednesday it would resume four weekly Helsinki-Tokyo flights with a new route and a flight time of 13 hours, up from around 9.5 hours previously.
Longer routes by airlines will add to fuel costs and reduce the amount of cargo that can be carried in a tight market for air freight that is exacerbating pandemic-related disruptions in global supply chains.
Korean Air Lines was still flying over Russian airspace on Thursday, according to Reuters monitoring of FlightRadar24, but Taiwanese carriers are now avoiding Russian airspace and are flying over China and central Asia.
Both JAL and ANA cancelled eight flights each carrier had scheduled for Friday. The impacted routes included those to London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Helsinki.
A Tokyo-Brussels flight due to carry vaccines on the return leg will be routed over central Asia, ANA said.
Japan Airlines said it planned to reroute one of its London flights on Friday heading eastward over Alaska, Greenland and Iceland rather than flying the usual westbound route over Russia. The flight will not require a fuel stop.
It cancelled flights to and from Helsinki, Frankfurt, Paris on Friday as well as a second London flight. (Reporting by Maki Shiraki in Tokyo and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Sakura Murakami and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Edwina Gibbs, Kim Coghill and Susan Fenton)
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