MIAMI – The European Union has approved a plan to ban Belarus airlines from flying over the EU or landing at bloc airports.

With the plan, European commercial aviation continues to be at the center of a diplomatic kerfuffle after Belarus forced a Ryanair (FR) Boeing 737 to divert to Minsk last week to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board an Athens-Vilnius segment.

According to Reuters today, EU ambassadors also agreed that EU airlines should not fly over Belarus territory.

The latest tit-for-tat will affect about 400 civilian flights a day, according to Eurocontrol, the European traffic control agency. This includes 300 overflights – 100 of which are conducted by EU or British airlines, according to the Reuters report.

Belavia Embraer E195-E2 in the 25th Anniversary livery. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Retaliation for Fake Bomb Threat

The EU decision is in retaliation for Belarus scrambling a warplane to force the landing on May 23 of a Ryanair flight carrying Protasevich, who was arrested upon landing, under the pretense of a false bomb threat. The restrictions take effect at midnight Central European Time (2200 GMT).

While the EU also recommends that EU airlines avoid flying over Belarus, there is no ban per se. However, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has issued a safety directive saying all EU aircraft should not fly over Belarus air space unless in an emergency.

While European carriers overfly Belarus to serve Minsk (MSQ) and destinations in Russia and Asia, the ban restricts Belarusian national carrier Belavia (B2), which had operated to about numerous airports in Europe, including Helsinki, Amsterdam, Milan, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Rome and Vienna.

This development follows some good news for B2, which last month took delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX and has received new Embraer E-195 E2 aircraft. In March the airline marked its 25th anniversary.

Featured image: Belavia EW-457PA Boeing 737-800. Photo: Julian Schöpfer/Airways