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Given the recent invasion into Ukraine, all Western airlines were banned from Russian space and cannot use Ukrainian airspace for obvious reasons. A similar ban applies to Russian airlines flying over Western airspace. Which scheduled flight was the most affected by this closure? To clarify:

  1. The flight in question must be regularly scheduled
  2. It must be a passenger flight
  3. The flight route must be visible on FlightAware, FlightStats or a similar website
  4. Distance will be judged by the deviation between the shortest possible flight route and the one taken in practice
  5. The flight must be scheduled to/from/within Russia or normally scheduled to fly over Russian/Ukrainian airspace.
  6. Flights which are now forced to make a fuel stop count too.

It’s now been 3 weeks since the start of the conflict so I assume airlines were able to update their routes by now.

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    Not a winner but it’s interesting to see that even domestic Russian flights are affected. All flights between Moscow and Sochi make a large detour to stay well away from the war for instance.
    – jcaron
    Mar 18 at 8:41
  • KGD - MSQ should be affected heavily, provided we will see it at all.
    – alamar
    Mar 18 at 9:20
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    Sorry for the nit pick but "most affected" to me would mean "cancelled" and there are plenty of those.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 18 at 12:15
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    @Hilmar no matter how many [where-on-earth] questions I post there's always a nitpick/loophole I forget about :)
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 18 at 20:05
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    @undercat almost certainly a net reduction given the number of cancelled flights to / from Russia. The added journey lengths is very unlikely to outweigh that.
    – Tim
    Mar 19 at 19:54

4 Answers 4

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I'll kick off with Finnair flight AY74 from Tokyo to Helsinki. Scheduled flight time used to be 10:15, now it's taking around 13 hours.

enter image description here

You can somewhat approximate this route in the Great Circle mapper by using HEL-LYR-WAA-UHPX-NRT. I also added HEL-BUD-TBS-ULN-NRT as a Southern route as well, and the direct flight.

Great Circle mapped route

Based on the mapper the NRT-HEL direct distance was around 4900 miles, the new Northern route is approximately 6700 miles, while the Southern route avoiding Russia and Ukraine through Hungary->Georgia->Mongolia would be around 7100-7200 miles.

Interestingly, the new polar routing is essentially the same as the one Finnair pioneered in the early 1980s, when it became the first airline to fly direct from Europe to Asia, before the Soviet Union permitted overflights.

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    Dan, the map projection isn't "wrong" per se, but it is a Mercator projection (or one just like it); these heavily distort and enlarge arctic and antarctic regions. Diverting through the Arctic is both faster and safer than diverting through Central Asia, because it is shorter and avoids the Tibetan Plateau, over which planes do not like to fly.
    – S. G.
    Mar 18 at 16:28
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    No projection is going to be perfect for such a long flight, but here's a polar projection showing the great circle route here. I think it's more intuitive in that projection that you want to go through the Arctic. Mar 18 at 16:51
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    Added a screenshot from FlightAware, sadly they don't support 3d route visualizations.
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 18 at 20:04
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    Added another screenshot from great circle mapper approximating the FlightAware route
    – SztupY
    Mar 18 at 23:27
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    Interestingly according to Google Flights, the price doesn't seem to have increased all that much for HEL <-> NRT, but indirect flights for that route have nearly tripled in price on average. The direct flight is now pretty much the cheapest option. Mar 19 at 4:33
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In terms of proportional increase rather than absolute increase, I expect the worst-hit flight is Kaliningrad-Minsk, operated by Belavia as flight B2949/B2950 four times a week. The great-circle route between the two is only 470 km, but the routing to avoid closed airspace increases that to over 1600 km, for a factor of 3.4.

enter image description here

For a more-frequently-flown example, Kaliningrad-Moscow sees a substantial increase. The great-circle distance is 1070 km, but flight AFL1007 recently detoured for a total flight distance of around 1700 km, a factor of 1.6.

enter image description here

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The question is which flight is most impacted.

UA867/UA868 - SFO to DEL and DEL to SFO, have both been canceled since the conflict started, as United does not have any aircraft that are capable of making the flight without flying over Russia/Ukraine.

The flights listed in the other answers have had their flight times increased, but from the perspective of the flight, fairly clearly being canceled is more of an impact than a longer route!

(There are likely other flights that have also been canceled for the same reason, this is just one that springs to mind)

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    This answer is technically correct but boring: I think we're looking for the most impacted flight that still continues to operate. Mar 22 at 4:54
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CNN has an infographic on that question: Seoul to Helinsky is the most impacted route mentioned in their graphic, in terms of absolute time increase (4h8min).

enter image description here

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  • +1 for the graphic, but the listed flight times are too high: yesterday's flight AY42 HEL-ICN was "only" 13 hours, when this implies it should be 14+. Mar 26 at 0:34

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