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Lufthansa Cargo banned from Russian airspace

Russia banned Lufthansa Cargo from flying into Russian airspace, as Russian authorities claimed the airline failed to apply for an extension to its Siberian overflight approval that expired on Oct. 27. Lufthansa says it applied for the rights in time.

High-level negotiations are continuing between German and Russian officials to find a solution. Germany had banned Aeroflot Cargo from flying into German airspace for a few hours on Wednesday, but the decision was soon reversed to allow for “a trustful basis of talks between the German and the Russian side.”

Lufthansa Cargo operates a total of 49 weekly MD-11 services to Astana, Kazakhstan, which is mainly used as a refueling stop on routes to the Far East. The airline typically flies over Russian airspace, but now has to fly more southerly routings that extend block times by 70 minutes eastbound and 110 minutes westbound. Siberian overflight charges have been a key cause for irritation on the political level for many years. European carriers are paying about €300 million (about $434 million) annually for the routes, charges that the European Union considers illegal. Russia agreed in principle to phase out the charges by 2013 but never signed the deal.

Lufthansa is resisting pressure from Russia to move its regional cargo hub to an airport in Siberia from Astana in Kazakhstan amid a dispute with Moscow over the use of Russian airspace. “Moving the hub to Krasnoyarsk is not a realistic option because the infrastructure there does not meet the necessary conditions,” a spokesman for the German carrier said Reuters on Friday. (aviationweek.com)