Dutch airline KLM has stopped all its scheduled commercial flights to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as the chances of a military conflict increase. The United States and its NATO allies believe that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. In a statement, the airline expressed, “KLM always puts the safety of passengers and employees first in the conduct of its operation. Choosing safe and optimal routes is a standard part of our daily practice.”
It’s understandable why KLM was the first major airline to stop flying into Ukraine. The Dutch airline hasn’t flown over Eastern Ukraine and Crimea since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine in 2014. MH17 was flying between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Eastern Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew on board perished, and 198 were Dutch citizens.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has also banned American carriers from operating near the Russia-Ukraine border since 2014. In a recent notice, the FAA now requires 72 hours notice for any U.S. flight to Ukraine. Ukraine’s government doesn’t feel that it’s necessary to regulate commercial traffic in its airspace more tightly. A Ukrainian government advisor told Reuters, “The most important point is that Ukraine itself sees no point in closing the sky. And, in my opinion, that would somewhat resemble a kind of partial blockade.”
KLM does not know when it will resume service to Kyiv. The airline concluded its statement by saying, “The decision not to fly over or to a specific country is based on the most current analyzes at that time.” Over the coming days, it will become more evident if the Russian military will actually invade Ukraine or if the tensions will de-escalate across the region. As things continue, KLM probably won’t be the last airline to cease operations in Ukraine.