Lufthansa and Swiss Air suspend flights to Ukrainian capital

Lufthansa and Swiss air planes

Lufthansa and Swiss Air will suspend flights to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv from Monday amid growing fears of a Russian invasion.

German airline Lufthansa has announced it will also halt flights to Odessa, a key port on the Black Sea.

“The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority at all times,” Lufthansa said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that Russia was planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”.

Last week, Dutch airline KLM announced that it was suspending flights to Kyiv.

Lufthansa’s suspension is expected to remain in place until the end of February.

Swiss Air announced on Sunday that it would suspend flights to Kiev from Monday to February 28 inclusive.

Lufthansa and Swiss say they will continue to monitor the situation closely and are in close contact with national and international authorities.

Swiss added: “The safety of our passengers and crew is the top priority at all times… Affected customers will be advised accordingly.”

A Lufthansa spokesperson said: “Affected customers will be informed and re-booked on alternative flight routes.”

The airline typically operates 74 flights to Ukraine each week under its Lufthansa banner or the other carriers it owns, including Austrian Airlines, Eurowings and Swiss.

Lufthansa said it would continue to fly to Lviv in western Ukraine.

Mr Johnson told the BBC that evidence suggests Russia intends to launch an invasion that will encircle Kiev.

Graphic showing the positioning of Russian troops.  Updated February 19

Graphic showing the positioning of Russian troops. Updated February 19

“All signs show that the plan has already started in some direction,” he said.

Ryanair and Wizz Air also operate flights to Ukraine and said last week they would continue to fly to the country. Ryanair is the largest airline that flies between Europe and Ukraine, followed by Wizz Air.

In a statement on Sunday, Wizz Air said it was monitoring the situation closely and reminded passengers to check their inbox regularly for information on booked flights.

A Wizz Air spokesperson said: “Currently we have made no changes to our schedule and all our flights to/from Ukraine continue to operate as normal.”

“Do not panic”

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said last week: “It’s important not to panic.

“Is it our duty and our obligation to support the Ukrainian people as long as there is no war or missiles flying there.”

The UK Foreign Office has advised UK nationals to ‘leave while there are business options’.

“In the event of a military incursion, it is likely that trade routes out of Ukraine will be severely disrupted and routes through Ukraine could be closed,” he said.

Last week, the Ukrainian government pledged to keep the country’s airspace open. He said he was prepared to take on financial obligations for flight safety amid concerns over rising insurance costs for airlines to continue flying in the region.

In July 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down while flying near the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed. Among the victims were 80 children.

A Dutch Security Council investigation found the plane crashed after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile.

Christi C. Elwood