Airline SAS gauging U.S. sanctions impact on Russia World Cup plans

MOSCOW/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Scandinavian Airline SAS is assessing the potential impact of U.S. sanctions on plans to fly Denmark’s World Cup soccer team to a Russian airport owned by a blacklisted firm, joining two other airlines looking into the issue.

FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower after taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Eight of the Russian airports that are likely to be used by World Cup teams in June are owned by entities targeted last week by new sanctions for what U.S. officials described as the Kremlin’s “malign activities” around the world.

Given that the U.S. government can take punitive action against foreign companies that do business with sanctioned entities, the eight teams that will be based near one of the affected airports and the airlines flying them could face headaches.

SAS is set to fly the Danish team from Copenhagen to the southern Russian city of Anapa, where their base for the tournament is located, the Danish Football Association said.

The airport there is operated by Basel Aero, a company owned by sanctioned Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

SAS told Reuters it had not been aware that the U.S. sanctions could be an issue and that the company would look into the situation.

The U.S. measures are unlikely to prevent teams from arriving in Russia. They could switch to a nearby airport not affected by sanctions, or use a Russian carrier that is less exposed to the risk of sanctions.

The Polish national team, which will be based in Sochi during the month-long tournament, plans to take a charter flight operated by Poland’s flag carrier Lot to the Russian city’s airport, which is also managed the Derispaska-controlled firm.

The airline said this week it would consult lawyers on the issue.

Basel Aero did not respond to Reuters questions on the possible impact of the sanctions on its airports’ business.

Swiss International Air Lines said it was aware of the issue and would be examining its scope. Switzerland’s national team base will be in Togliatti, near the airport of the World Cup host city of Samara.

It was not immediately clear if the airline would be flying to an airport affected by the sanctions as neither it, not the Swiss team, disclosed the team’s itinerary.

Russia’s Airports of Regions holding company, owned by the Renova Group, a conglomerate belonging to sanctioned oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, manages airports in the World Cup host cities of Yekaterinburg, Samara, Rostov-on-Don and Nizhny Novgorod.

In a statement to Reuters, the holding said that the new U.S. sanctions would not have a direct impact on World Cup participants’ ability to land in the host cities. It did not explain why there would be no direct impact.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, Emil Gjerding Nielson, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen, Helena Soderpalm in Stockholm, Michael Shields in Zurich, Marcin Goettig in Warsaw; Editing by Keith Weir