flydubai immediately suspended flights to Ukraine early on Thursday after hostilities broke out. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: flydubai has suspended flights between Dubai and Ukraine after Eastern Europe closed its airspace to civilian aircraft.

“Flights between Dubai and Ukraine have been temporarily suspended on February 24 - we will be in touch with the passengers regarding their refund and rebooking options,” a flydubai spokesperson told Gulf News. (Etihad does not fly to Ukraine and Emirates does code-sharing with flydubai.)

With its relatively warm winters, Dubai has traditionally been a destination of preference for tourists from Ukraine and Russia. Earlier this month, the UAE Embassy in Ukraine Kyiv called on UAE nationals to postpone travel to Ukraine.

An Air India repatriation flight to Ukraine seems to be heading back to New Delhi after Ukrainian airspace suddenly became inaccessible. The flight - AI 1947 – is the second of the three repatriation flights for Indians in Ukraine, and had been continuing west for some time after Ukraine closed its airspace to commercial traffic, according to Flightradar24.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, which offers flights to Kyiv's Boryspil International Airport, is also putting its flights to the country on hold.
“Due to the current events in Ukraine and the airspace closure, Wizz Air regrets to inform our customers that the airline must temporarily suspend all flight operations in the country, " an airline spokesperson told Gulf News. "The safety and security of our passengers and crew remain our number one priority and we hope normality will return to Ukraine soon."

Air raid sirens rang out in downtown Kyiv on Thursday as cities across Ukraine were hit with what Ukrainian officials said were Russian missile strikes and artillery. “The provision of air traffic services to civilian users of the airspace of Ukraine is suspended,” Ukrainian State Air Traffic Services Enterprise said on its website. Flights from Russia's Rostov airport near Ukraine have been cancelled, Russian news agencies reported.

Some international airlines began cancelling or diverting flights to Ukraine weeks ago amid fears of a blow up with Russia. One of them was Dutch airline KLM, which has suspended its Ukraine flights until further notice.

In 2014, a Malaysian airliner was shot down over an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed rebels. All 298 people on board died. With the current crisis playing out, some insurers have informed airlines that they will not cover flights going into or operating within Ukraine. In response to the move by insurers, the country had launched a 16.6 billion Hryvnia ($592 million) fund to guarantee the continuation of flights through the region’s airspace.

Keeping away from war zone

Etihad Airways, which does not have any direct flights to Ukraine, has re-routed flights away from the border region.

"Etihad continues to completely avoid Ukrainian airspace, and as a precautionary measure, has re-routed flights away from the border region to the east and north of Ukraine by a considerable distance,” an airline spokesperson told Gulf News. “The safety and wellbeing of our guests is always Etihad’s highest priority.

"As this is an evolving situation, we continue to vigilantly monitor and assess emerging airspace restrictions and threats. Etihad will update guests of any changes to itineraries and flight schedules over the coming days, as we continue to prioritise the safety of our guests and staff.”

Turkish Airlines has become the latest major international operator to cancel flights to the country. "Due to the current situation, Ukraine air space is closed to all civil flights on 24 February 2022. Our flights arriving to and departing from Ukraine at this date have been cancelled. You may contact our call center for your ticket transactions," said the flag carrier on its website.