IATA calls on EASA to reconsider its prohibition on aircraft entering Belarusian airspace

Following the apparent forced diversion of Ryanair Flight FR4978 out of Belarusian airspace, IATA has called on EASA to ensure that aircraft operations remain separate from politics.

IATA calls on EASA to reconsider its prohibition on Belarus airspace

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to maintain the critical separation between politics and aviation safety issues. 

The call followed the latest development in events following the incident on 23 May 2021 when Ryanair Flight FR4978, while flying over Belarus en-route from Athens to Vilnius, was made to divert and land in Minsk by Belarusian authorities.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, EASA issued a Safety Information Bulletin that advised airlines to avoid operations in Belarusian airspace. This did not ban European aircraft from using the airspace, but required any airline that continued to do so to satisfy themselves that the safety of the aircraft, passengers and crew was not at risk.

IATA supported this measure as a proportionate response to the actions of the Government of Belarus. Following this, several airlines have continued to use Belarusian airspace, and IATA supports their decision to do so. 

However, on 2 June 2021, after consulting with EASA Member States and the European Commission (EC), EASA replaced its recommendation (Safety Information Bulletin) for European airlines to carefully assess the risk of flying in Belarus airspace with a blanket prohibition (Safety Directive) on European aircraft entering Belarus airspace. IATA has outlined that it does not support this action as it, in effect, politicises air safety. 

“Aviation safety must never be politicised. IATA condemned the actions of the Belarus government and called for an independent investigation. Banning European aircraft from using Belarusian airspace with a Safety Directive is also a politicisation of aviation safety. This is a retrograde and disappointing development. EASA should rescind its prohibition and allow airlines to manage safety as they do each and every day – with their normal operational risk assessments. Two wrongs do not make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft, and politicians should never use aviation safety as a cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

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