American carriers are reportedly losing as much as $2 billion annually in market share to competitors not subject to restrictions
The US Transportation Department is considering a ban on Chinese airlines' use of Russian airspace to fly passengers to the US, three officials from the administration of President Joe Biden told the New York Times on Friday. An order obliging Chinese competitors to abide by the same restrictions faced by US airlines was reportedly presented to the national security team and others last Monday.
The proposal is the result of lobbying by US air carriers, who are losing up to $2 billion annually in market share to foreign competitors not subject to the ban on overflying Russian territory, according to industry trade group Airlines for America. A spokeswoman for the group confirmed it wants the Biden administration to "take action to ensure that foreign carriers overflying Russia do not depart, land or transit through US airports."
Airlines such as China Eastern, Emirates and Air India, whose home countries are not involved in the Ukraine conflict, have enjoyed a boom in business, since they can fly the shortest route without the need to circumvent Russia's vast territory.
American carriers, on the other hand, have had to run long-haul flights with dozens of empty seats in the hope of making the plane light enough to avoid refueling on the increasingly circuitous routes required to avoid no-go zones, airline sources told the Times.
Barred from the most direct routes to Asia, US carriers have had to shelve plans to offer direct services to more than a dozen hotspots such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Mumbai, abandoning those routes to competitors.
Airlines for America has sought to convince passengers who balk at spending the extra several hundred dollars and hours in the air that flying over Russia is actually dangerous. The lobby group points to the downing of MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 and the arrest of US women's basketball star Brittney Griner at a Moscow airport last year.
However, many "safe" countries impose much more severe penalties - up to and including execution by firing squad - on foreigners caught with illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, the Dutch team tasked with finding proof of Russia's culpability in the MH17 incident suspended its investigation last month, having been unable to produce conclusive evidence
Last year, a court in the same country claimed a Russian-made BUK missile shot down the jet, saying there was no "possibility for reasonable doubt whatsoever."
Russia closed its airspace to US airlines last March after Washington imposed its own ban on Russian aircraft flying over US territory.