EU set to ban Belarus carriers after forced diversion

Following a meeting on May 24, 2021, the European Council has resolved to ban all Belarus airlines from landing in the European Union and from transiting its airspace.

The Council’s conclusions have also appealed to all EU airlines to avoid overflying Belarus.

The European Council is a body comprising the heads of states and governments of all 27 EU member states. It does not, however, have direct legislative power and all of its conclusions need to be passed into law by other bodies, including the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. As such, the ban is not immediately effective.

Flag carrier Belavia (B2, Minsk National) is the only Belarus airline operating scheduled flights to the European Union. According to the ch-aviation schedules module, the airline currently connects Minsk with 19 destinations in the bloc. Cargo specialists Rada AirlinesRubystar AirwaysBySky, and Genex all hold EASA Third Country Operator certificates, permitting them to operate charter flights.

The conclusions were adopted in the wake of the state-backed hijacking of a B737-800 operated by Buzz on behalf of its parent Ryanair on May 23. The aircraft, en route from Athens Int’l to Vilnius, was notified by air traffic controllers of a potential bomb on board while in Belarus airspace and ordered to land at Minsk National, even though it was closer to Vilnius at that time. The Belarus Air Force scrambled a MiG-29 fighter to force the aircraft to divert to Minsk. Upon landing in the capital, independent journalist Roman Protasevich was detained. The aircraft, SP-RSM (msn 44791), departed for Vilnius after around seven hours on the ground.

The Belarus authorities have since confirmed the order to force the aircraft to land were issued directly by President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Ahead of the Council’s decisions, a number of countries and airlines have implemented their own bans affecting air traffic with Belarus.