Originally published on March 2, 2022. Includes Updates from United about the extension of the cancellation of flights.
United, which is one of the three airlines operating on the India – USA corridor has decided to temporarily stop using the Russian airspace for overflying to its destinations. This decision comes in anticipation, it seems, of the US announcing a ban on Russian aircraft using its territory (announced on March 1 by POTUS in his State of the Union address), which will almost certainly be met with a tit-for-tat blockade on US aircraft entering Russian Airspace.
While American Airlines does not use the Russian Airspace for lack of permissions to fly its service between Delhi and New York JFK, United has been using it for a long time. Here is a typical route between SFO-DEL for United, via FlightRadar24.
They did attempt flying the aircraft via another route, skipping the Russian airspace on February 28, 2022, and it took them an hour longer to complete the flight. Remember, these flights are operating with specially modified Boeing 787-9 aircraft, which increased the range of operation a bit more than usual via a software upgrade.
On the Mumbai – Newark leg operating as a return on March 2, 2022, for instance, with the plane that brought in passengers on February 28, 2022, the plane is now having to divert to Bangor to refuel to get passengers into EWR eventually.
United to suspend operations on the San Francisco – Delhi and Newark – Mumbai flights temporarily
It is no surprise then that United has decided to suspend, for the time being, overflying the Russian airspace, to operate flights to Mumbai and Delhi. The following flights have been cancelled for the time being.
- San Francisco – Delhi (and return) on March 1 – 12, 2022 (UA867)
- Newark – Mumbai (and return) on March 1 – 12, 2022 (UA829/UA830)
It is interesting to note that only these two flights are being cancelled, and they are both operated with the 787-9 equipment, as new routings are going to be pushing the edge of the operations and frequent fuel-stops will be needed. In an internal communication rolled out at United, they said,
United has decided to temporarily suspend transiting Russian airspace to operate our flights to and from BOM (Mumbai) and DEL (Delhi) India. While some routes are possible to fly, we are unable to operate our full India operation. Our SFO-DEL and EWR-BOM routes will be cancelled for the next few days, as we evaluate any available options for those unique routes.
We do, however, have available routes outside Russia, which allow us to continually operate the ORD-DEL and EWR-DEL routes.
We may have additional adjustments to our flight schedule for India in the days ahead as the situation develops, but we remain in close communication with our crews in India.
While there is no clarity on how will passengers booked to fly on the EWR-BOM or SFO-DEL and v.v. corridor fly, they should be able to get a refund, reschedule or also a rebooking on the existing operations of United into India (ORD-DEL or EWR-DEL and v.v.).
(Update: United seems to have pulled all inventory of the flights abovementioned from their sales platforms now at least through the end of March 2022. In the meantime, flights between Delhi and San Francisco continue to operate on Air India, using the Russian airspace, no less)
United will be temporarily cancelling its flights on the San Francisco – Delhi and Newark – Mumbai segments, as it tries to figure out how to operate those flights without transiting Russian airspace. In the meantime, customers may already have been rebooked by United, or they can reach out to United for a more convenient routing if this does not work for them.
Are you scheduled to fly United on EWR-BOM or SFO-DEL? Check your mail for the cancellation notices.
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