Delta Airlines has cut ties with Russian airline Aeroflot as the US mounts financial pressure on the Kremlin over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Delta has withdrawn our codeshare services operated in conjunction with the Russian national airline Aeroflot with immediate effect,” the Atlanta-based airline said in a statement.
Delta does not fly directly to Russia or Ukraine, but the codeshare agreement meant both Delta and Aeroflot customers could use each airline’s website to book flights with either carrier, making travel between the US and Russia much easier.
“We have removed our code from Aeroflot operated services outside of Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport and have removed Aeroflot code from Delta operated flights from Los Angeles and New York – JFK. Conditions will be created for customers affected by these changes,” Delta said in a statement.
GROUNDED: Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has cut ties with Russian carrier Aeroflot. KLM Dutch Airlines, a Delta partner, has also limited its flights to Russia.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday banned Aeroflot from landing at Heathrow and other UK airports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday banned Aeroflot from landing at Heathrow or any other UK airport.
Aeroflot operates direct flights from Moscow to four US cities: New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Miami.
Bookings for these destinations were still available.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which has a partnership with Delta, told CNBC that it has canceled some flights.
“We have now decided, given the uncertain situation, not to allow our crew to stay overnight in Russia,” the statement said. “Therefore, it is not possible to carry out a night flight to Moscow, so we canceled it.”
Russia’s Federal Transport Agency, known as Rosaviatsia, responded that British airlines were barred from flying into Russian airspace.
“This measure is taken in accordance with the provisions of the Intergovernmental Air Services Agreement between Russia and the UK in response to unfriendly decisions by the UK aviation authorities regarding the restriction of scheduled flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with Russia or registered in Russia”, the agency said in a statement.
Delta Airlines does not fly directly to Ukraine or Russia
This means that flights from Europe to Asia will be much longer and more expensive due to re-routing and additional fuel costs.
Flights to the Far East used to take the most direct route – across the frozen wastelands of Siberia. But escalating tensions mean they have to fly over the Middle East on a longer route that burns more fuel and will likely raise ticket prices as well.
According to aviation analyst Alex Maheras, the overflight ban will also cost the Russian airline.
United stars Edinson Cavani (left) and Nemanja Matic (right) pictured during an Aeroflot flight.
Manchester United had previously switched flights with Russian state-owned airline Aeroflot and have now canceled their sponsorship deal due to the invasion of Ukraine.
According to him, European countries pay up to $420 million per flight, most of this money goes to subsidize Aeroflot’s activities.
“Russian airspace is one of the most expensive in the world (for flights) and airlines are paying the Russian government *a lot* to use it, so Russia is losing here too,” Machairas tweeted on Friday.
“The airlines that pay to use Russian airspace (the Siberian corridor) for flights also financially support Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, which for many years has received a steady income from such fees for flights paid by foreign airlines.”
Anchorage Airport in Alaska told Reuters it began receiving inquiries on Thursday about its ability to handle additional flights.
Airlines often used the Arctic airport for refueling during the Cold War, when Russian airspace was also closed.
Also on Friday, Aeroflot received boots from British soccer team Manchester United, which pulled out of a $53 million sponsorship with 18 months left.
“In connection with the events in Ukraine, we have withdrawn sponsorship rights from Aeroflot,” said a team representative.
Boris Johnson says Putin “chose the path of bloodshed and destruction” in Ukraine after “terrible attacks” on its neighbor
“We share the concern of our fans around the world and express our sympathy for those affected.”
The football club planned to paint over the Aeroflot logo at the Old Trafford stadium, where the team plays.
The team’s last flight was due to take place on Tuesday in the Champions League play-off against Atlético Madrid, but it was canceled due to the invasion.
Russian airlines is not only trade based on war. On Friday, President Joe Biden announced sanctions directly against Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in addition to the banking ban already in place.
“In line with the decision of our European allies, the United States will join them in imposing sanctions on President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Additional fines will be imposed, including a travel ban, she said.
This move will be largely symbolic, as it remains unclear where Putin’s money is and how much of it.
Bloomberg notes that Putin’s latest financial information shows his annual income is around 10 million rubles ($120,050) and he owns three cars and an apartment.
But there are also reports that Putin owns a $100 million superyacht. And that his estimated net worth is $200 billion.
Earlier on Friday, Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for about 40 minutes.
Zelenskiy said the two men discussed tougher sanctions on Russia and increased US support.
“Increased sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition have just been discussed with @POTUS. Thankful [United States] for strong support [Ukraine]!,” he wrote on Twitter.
Zelensky insisted on direct sanctions against Putin