Well, if you ever wanted to fly over the Arctic and the polar ice caps, here’s your chance.
Airlines are devising new ways to overcome being banned from Russian airspace and going over the Arctic Circle is one of them, according to CNN.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine spawned a series of economic sanctions by the United States and its western allies, including banning Russian commercial and cargo planes from airspace in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Russia retaliated by doing the same and closing its airspace.
But Russia is also the largest country on earth and was the easiest and most convenient way for many airlines – both U.S.-based and international – to fly to Asia.
United Airlines, for instance, announced earlier this month that it canceled or re-routed all flights that flew over Russian airspace.
But others have had to adjust as well. CNN noted that Finnair had to change its route on a flight from Helsinki to Tokyo. Previously, the airline flew for more than 3,000 miles over Russian airspace on a 5,000-mile trip.
Finnair officials had anticipated the problem prior to the February 24 start of the war and came up with an alternate route. Now the same flight leaves Helsinki but instead of flying east over Russia it first flies north, crosses the North Pole, and avoids Russian airspace before then flying east.
Of course, that comes with a pretty hefty price – the trip is now 8,000 miles and uses 40 percent more fuel, according to CNN.
Finnair could also take a southerly route – equally as long and using more fuel – by flying over the Baltics, down through Poland, and then flying east to China, Korea and on to Japan.
Phew. Complicated, yes? Of course, but adjustments have been made. Such as adding crew for the extra four hours the flight is in the air compared to the old route.
“Usually we fly to Japan with a crew of three pilots,” Aleksi Kuosmanen, deputy fleet chief pilot at Finnair, who is also a captain on the new flights, told CNN. “Now we operate it with four pilots. We have a specific flight crew bunk where we can sleep and have a rest, and we have also increased the number of meals.”
Going over the Arctic does not pose a safety risk, Kuosmanen added.
“Cold weather is probably the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s true that there are regions with cold air masses at high altitude, but we’re fairly used to this when we fly northern routes to Tokyo in the Russian airspace anyway,” he said.
Finnair and its passengers are certainly having fun with the change. Fliers are getting a “diploma” certifying that they flew over the North Pole.