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United Airlines CEO expresses concern over competing carriers crossing Russia

United Airlines CEO expresses concern over competing carriers crossing Russia

Competing airlines flying over Russia is a big issue, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told reporters on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Istanbul.

Kirby said he worries if airlines flying over Russia carrying American citizens have to divert to a Russian airport because of medical or technical issues.

“What’s going to happen if an airline lands in Russia with some prominent U.S. citizens on board? That is a potential crisis in the making. I think we should solve it before the crisis happens,” he said.

Russia has barred U.S. airlines and other foreign carriers from flying over its airspace, in retaliation for Washington banning Russian flights over the U.S. in March 2022 after the country invaded Ukraine.

United Airlines was forced to temporarily suspend flying over Russian airspace, joining other major U.S. carriers, in a move that has impacted the airline’s ability to offer competitive non-stop flights to India and other places.


“It’s clearly a big impact to us,” Kirby said, noting pre-pandemic United had multiple daily flights between the U.S. and India. “Now we fly one and it’s an extra two hours,” he said, adding that even with the extra time it cannot fly the other routes non-stop.

“That’s disappointing,” he added.

Air India and some Gulf-based, Chinese and African carriers continue to fly over Russian airspace, making flying times shorter.

However, newly approved flights for Chinese airlines are avoiding flying over Russian airspace to and from the United States, Reuters reported on June 1.