Cathay Pacific has announced plans to resume using Russian airspace on its longest routes. Starting November 1st, Cathay will use the polar route to New York, overflying Siberia to cut down flight time and remove payload restrictions. The decision will remove over two hours of flight time and comes at a time when Western airlines still remain away from Russian skies.

Back to its original route

Since March, Cathay Pacific joined a host of European, North American, and Asian carriers in refusing to overfly Russia due to sanctions imposed after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Fast-forward eight months and Cathay Pacific has opted to resume flying over Russia on select routes, according to Bloomberg. The first will be New York JFK to Hong Kong, the carrier’s flagship service connecting the two financial hubs.

The usual 15-hour journey has now been stretched up to upward of 17 hours since flights now have to cross the Pacific instead of overflying the pole. Starting November 1st, Cathay is returning to the usual polar route, cutting flight times by nearly two hours from New York to Hong Kong and over an hour on the way back. Here’s a look at the route maps for the two flights.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the carrier noted that it was subject to any sanctions preventing the overflying of Russia, unlike its counterparts in the US and Europe. It added,

“There are other major airlines overflying Russian airspace and there are no sanctions which prevent Cathay Pacific overflying Russia. The Polar Route provides a safe, direct and the fastest flight experience to our customers traveling from the East Coast of North America to Hong Kong.”

Complicated return

In an internal note to pilots, Cathay emphasized that flying over Russia is safe and “eliminates the need for a technical stop in another city for a change of aircrew as necessitated by mandated flight time limitations.” However, it also warned that no flights should be planned with dependencies in Russia and none will be allowed.

The return to the polar route will also allow flights to avoid headwinds and carry its full payload, something not possible on the longer Pacific route currently in effect. Maximizing this would mean more passengers, checked luggage, and potentially cargo on one of the busiest international flights pre-pandemic.

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-367(ER) B-KPK (2)

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

Cathay is currently deploying its Airbus A350-1000s on the JFK-HKG route, although the Boeing 777 has been in use previously as well. Current schedules indicate the A350 will continue operating the route after the route change. It is notable that Middle Eastern, Indian, and Chinese airlines have continued to operate over Russia as before, with no issues.

Hong Kong reopening

As Hong Kong scraps its quarantine requirements and reopens to all visitors, switching to shorter flights is one way to draw more visitors to the financial and cultural hub. Cathay Pacific is responding to the changes too, with 1,200 more flights for November and December, totaling 500,000 seats.

For now, all eyes will be on the international reaction to Cathay overflying Russia and if more Asian airlines, such as ANA, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines, make the change as well.

What do you think about Cathay Pacific’s decision? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Bloomberg,


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