By Parker Davis
Cathay Pacific returns to Russian airspace, limiting codeshares with other carriers
Since Nov. 1, Cathay Pacific Airways flight CX841 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Hong Kong has returned to Russian airspace due to a strong high-altitude headwind in the area. temperate. Previously, such weather conditions caused the flight to be diverted to Taipei to refuel. Cathay Pacific had previously avoided Russian airspace since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Following the CX841 overflight in Russian airspace, American Airlines will no longer codeshare with Cathay Pacific on this route. Passengers previously booked on this flight with American Airlines will need to be rebooked.
Cathay Pacific used Airbus A350 XWBs to operate the flight from New York to Hong Kong. The flight is among the longest flights in the world. Normally the flight would take over 15 hours runway to runway. However, with the strong headwind and the detour to avoid Russian airspace, the flight recently took 17 hours to arrive. On October 19, the flight confirmed its diversion to Taipei just moments after taking off. The weather conditions were severe enough to make the situation clear even at the start of the flight.
An inevitable phenomenon
Due to the temperature difference between the tropical zone and the polar zone of the earth, in addition to the rotation of the earth, there is always a wind moving from west to east in the temperate zone, and this is call the Westerlies. The wind is particularly strong in winter in the northern hemisphere. Such a strong headwind will extend the flight time of long-haul international flights to the west, rendering some flights unable to operate with the original plan.
To alleviate the situation created by the Westerlies whereby a route becomes unusable for an aircraft type, airlines may add a stopover to refuel or unload some passengers or cargo to reduce the fuel burn rate. In this case, Cathay Pacific has a major operations center in Taipei, and few passengers would volunteer to delay their trip, even with high-value vouchers.
To date, Cathay Pacific’s CX841 is the only flight that flies over Russian airspace. Other long-haul international flights operated by Cathay Pacific are still taking the detour to avoid Russian airspace. In addition to flights between Hong Kong and the US East Coast, other long-haul international flights operated by Cathay Pacific are generally within range of Airbus A350 Family or Boeing 777 aircraft.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many carriers have chosen to avoid Russian airspace. Russia, on the other hand, has also banned carriers from “hostile countries” from crossing Russian airspace. Such a situation has made flights between the Far East and the Western Hemisphere longer, even inoperable for some. Lufthansa, Air France, KLM and other major European carriers have redirected their flights to Asia via the Middle East and Central Asia. Such routing has made the cost of operating Asian flights even higher in the context of global inflation.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has no end in sight, much of the world’s most crucial airspace will remain unusable for many carriers around the world. Such a situation is negative for the recovering global aviation market. Cathay Pacific has been forced to return to Russian airspace as the northern hemisphere enters winter, but it’s unclear how many other airlines will want or can choose to do the same.