(Add details about flights, background)
PARIS, May 26 (Reuters) – Air France on Wednesday canceled a Paris-Moscow flight after Russia did not approve a new route bypassing Belarus, the airline said.
The French airline, a subsidiary of Air France-KLM, canceled flight AF1154 “for operational reasons related to bypassing Belarusian airspace, requiring a new authorization from the Russian authorities to enter their territory,” said a spokesperson.
The European Union urged its airlines to avoid Belarus and its airspace amid outrage over the forced landing in Minsk on Sunday of a Ryanair plane en route to Lithuania from Greece and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board.
Air France, which operates several weekly routes to Moscow, said it still plans to make its next scheduled flight to Moscow on Friday, subject to Russia’s approval of a flight plan that would allow it to avoid to fly over Belarus.
Passengers on the abandoned flight were assisted at Paris Charles de Gaulle, he said. “Air France regrets the inconvenience caused by this situation.”
The airline has not encountered any problems with other flights passing over Russia after avoiding its ally Belarus, or with a Paris-St Petersburg service arriving on schedule on Wednesday.
But France is among the countries taking a hard line on a Belarusian warplane intercepting the Ryanair flight, including the suspension of operating rights for Belarusian national carrier Belavia.
Hours after Air France’s cancellation, Belavia flight 2869 to Barcelona was forced to turn around and return to Minsk after Poland said it could not enter the airspace French. (Reporting by Laurence Frost; editing by Grant McCool)