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Date : May 26, 2022

War in Ukraine: Air India Evacuation Flight to Kyiv Returning to Delhi as Country Shuts Airspace

After Ukraine closed off its civilian airspace citing potential threats, an Air India flight, AI 1947, which had left for Kyiv from New Delhi to evacuate Indians is now returning back to the national capital. The flight had been suspended mid-air after the announcement of NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) from the country, restricting its airspace amid ‘potential threats’.

Numbered “1947”, the Air India Dreamliner had earlier taken off for Kyiv’s Kyiv Boryspil International Airport. The airline had scheduled three special flights to operate this week to evacuate Indians out of Ukraine.

Sources told CNN-News18 that at around 9.15 am, flight was told about the restriction, when it was near Iranian airspace. Usually, flights are diverted or special permission is taken, if such a notice is issued post departure.

India removed the cap on the number of Ukraine flights under the current air bubble agreement last week in order to facilitate the return of Indians from there. According to an aviation ministry spokesperson, the ministry has “removed the restriction on the number of flights and seats between India and Ukraine in the air bubble arrangement.” There is no limit to the number of flights or charters that can operate. Due to increased demand, Indian airlines have been informed to schedule the flights. The aviation ministry is assisting in coordination with the ministry of external affairs.

Ukraine said early on Thursday it had restricted civilian flights in its airspace due to “potential hazard”, hours after a conflict zone monitor warned airlines should stop overflights over the risk of an unintended shootdown or cyber attack.

The notice to airmen from Ukraine’s authorities, issued at 0156 GMT on Thursday, is due to expire at 2359 GMT unless extended. It did not specify whether the restriction was a total ban on civilian flights but Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic in Europe, said that Ukraine’s airspace was not available because of military restrictions.

An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto made a sudden U-turn out of Ukraine’s airspace around the time a notice to airmen was issued citing the restrictions, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

A LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv also turned back to Warsaw around the same time.

The turnarounds came after Safe Airspace, which was set up to provide safety and conflict zone information for airlines after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, said it had increased its risk level to “do not fly”.