May 28, 2022
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Moscow (CNN) — The closure of Europe’s skies to Russia’s airplanes has created actual issues for vacationers attempting to fly each to and from the nation as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.

That’s led to a scramble for the final planes out and in. For some passengers it was a race towards time — as successive airways canceled flights to adjust to airspace restrictions or the logistical issues created by newly imposed sanctions.

Attempting to attain CNN’s Moscow bureau from London on Sunday, I skilled a few of the challenges different passengers should’ve confronted, attempting to slip throughout borders as they slammed shut.

I used to be initially booked to fly early in the day from London’s Heathrow on a Lufthansa flight through Frankfurt. All regarded OK earlier in the day, regardless that the UK and Russia had already severed direct air hyperlinks.

Extra airspace closures adopted in the subsequent hours, however Lufthansa remained on observe, proper up till 11 p.m. — simply eight hours earlier than check-in — once I found my flight was canceled as Lufthansa pulled the plug on all its Russia-bound routes.

The following few hours had been a frantic seek for another flight that wasn’t in peril of being grounded.

One potential plan may need been to fly through Casablanca on Air Maroc, however regardless of the prospect of a short journey south out of the chilly European winter, it was shortly dismissed as an choice. The chance of being stranded in Morocco if the second leg of the journey was scrapped for comparable causes was too nice. It will even have taken too lengthy.

As an alternative, flying on Greece’s Aegean Airways and transiting at Athens appeared like the greatest answer, though my flight was due to arrive at 4 a.m. on Monday — a punishing time forward of what was probably to be a busy work schedule.

As I drove to Heathrow on Sunday, and extra airways pulled the plug on flights to Moscow, I started to really feel extra pessimistic about my possibilities of reaching Moscow.

Mid-air turnarounds

It was fairly potential that whereas I used to be in the air on the first leg of my journey, Greece or the wider European Union would possibly impose sanctions, probably forcing the airline to droop flights to Russia.

If that occurred, I might be caught in Athens and compelled to organize a irritating flight again house.

On Saturday, Air France subsidiary KLM was pressured to flip round two flights whereas they had been in the air to Moscow and St. Petersburg over fears that European sanctions would possibly imply the airline was unable to ship spare aviation components to Russia.

This might have meant the airliners being stranded in these cities in the event that they developed technical points.

There appeared no different then however to take the danger with out one other viable choice to attain Moscow shortly.

The primary leg of my journey was predictably uneventful. As the aircraft got here to a halt at Athens airport late on Sunday night, I looked for information of any new sanctions being introduced or extra airline cancellations as quickly as I might. To this point, nothing.

I boarded the second aircraft after a short stopover in the Greek capital, with each stage of the often mundane takeoff process taking over additional significance given the heightened fears of flights being canceled or rotated. Doorways closing. Aircraft taxiing. Liftoff! Certainly nothing might go flawed now.

It didn’t — though whereas I used to be in the air, the EU introduced it will close its airspace to Russian visitors.

My airplane flew into snowy Moscow from the south, skirting Ukraine’s airspace that’s closed in the wake of the invasion, and landed safely.

The query now, in the wake of Monday’s closure of Russian airspace to 36 international locations, is when and the way I’ll make the return journey.

Prime picture credit score: Peter Wilkinson/CNN

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