American Airlines Rerouting or Diverting Some Asia Flights to Avoid Russian Airspace

Apr 15, 2018

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American Airlines is rerouting and diverting some of its flights to Asia to avoid Russian airspace amid growing geopolitical tensions, and has issued a travel waiver for affected customers who may wish to change their flights.

As reported by CNBC, the airline detailed in a memo to its pilots on Saturday that three of its flights — Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG), Dallas to Beijing (PEK) and Chicago (ORD) to Beijing — have been rerouted following the US-led military intervention in Syria.

“The team at American regularly monitors global geopolitical issues and makes changes to aircraft routings when warranted,” the note to pilots said.

For flights that typically operate over Russian airspace, operations have been shifted as of April 14, which the airline says could cause diversions and delays for passengers. In order to accommodate the new, longer routing, American has had to reroute the three affected flights through Los Angeles (LAX) because of aircraft range limits. This has also caused crew “time out” issues, meaning the maximum daily hours that pilots and flight attendants can work.

As shown on flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, American Flight 263 from Dallas to Beijing flew over Russia on April 11:

But on Saturday, AA263 diverted to Los Angeles (LAX), where it refueled and swapped crew before continuing on to PEK. Though it avoided a large swath of northern Russia, it did ultimately fly through Russian airspace en route to PEK.

As a result of the reroutings and diversions, American has issued a travel waiver allowing passengers to change their reservations. The waiver states that if you’re traveling to, from or through Beijing (PEK) or Hong Kong (HKG) between April 14-21, and have purchased your ticket by April 14, the airline will allow you to change your reservation. However, customers are reporting being told by AA agents that only the three affected routes — DFW-PEK, DFW-HKG and ORD-PEK — are eligible for the waiver. Rebooked travel must be completed between April 14 and May 5, and you must rebook in the same cabin or pay the difference in fare, as well as not changing your origin or destination city.

At this point, Delta and United have yet to announce if any of their flights will be rerouted. American said in its memo that it’s coordinating “with the US government in order to resolve any issues.” The carrier noted that it’s working “on our contingency plans in case certain areas are restricted,” adding that although the change in routes isn’t a “long term solution, we are doing everything possible to minimize the disruption for our customers and team members.”

Along with the escalating tensions between the US and Russia involving the conflict in Syria, an agreement that allows aircraft from the two countries to use each other’s airspace is set to expire on April 17. It’s not yet known what will happen for both US and Russian airlines if that agreement expires without being extended by the two sides.

Featured image by S3studio / Getty Images.

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