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UPDATE: What do Russia flight bans mean for international travel from Switzerland?

Russian airspace is closed to Swiss and European airlines. What does this mean for international travel?

Swiss airlines are no longer allowed to cross into Russian airspace. What does this mean for travel? Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash
Swiss airlines are no longer allowed to cross into Russian airspace. What does this mean for travel? Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash

Russia has closed its airspace to Swiss and European airlines until March 31st, as a response to a Swiss and EU ban on Russian flights. 

Swiss airlines announced a suspension of all Russia-bound flights until the end of March after the announcement was made. 

Prior to that, Swiss had flown from Zurich to Moscow five times per week, from Geneva to Moscow twice a week and from Geneva to St Petersburg once per week. 

The ban applies to both commercial and private jets and the only exception to the ban is for humanitarian, medical or diplomatic flights. 

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

What does the closure of Russian airspace mean for Swiss flights?

While the direct impact of Switzerland closing its airspace to Russian aircraft may be primarily symbolic, the closure of Russia’s sizeable airspace makes a significant impact for those on long-haul flights eastward. 

In addition to Russian airspace being closed, conflict has led to the closure of airspace in Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. 

Flights from Switzerland to China and Japan are particularly impacted by delays, with the duration to be between one and three hours longer. 

“The result is longer flight times between Zurich and Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing,” a spokesperson for the airline told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes. 

In addition to the longer distance, the flights are now more subject to further delays. 

For instance, a longer flight time can mean more weather-related delays, while the closure of Russian airspace looks set to lead to bottlenecks in certain areas, such as above Iran. 

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes confirmed that airspaces in several countries are organised in an “old-fashioned way”, which means flights need to follow after each other rather than above each other, as takes place in other countries. 

Hansjörg Egger, a Swiss aviation expert, told news outlet Blick that bottlenecks lead to additional fuel usage. 

“The planes have to constantly change altitude in order to avoid one another. That needs more kerosene,” Egger said

Due to the longer flight distance, the planes will require more fuel, although Swiss said the costs would not be passed on to consumers. 

Egger told Blick that although closures of airspace are relatively normal for airlines, Russia’s breadth makes this closure significant. 

“It’s not just any country, it’s the largest country on earth with eleven time zones!,” he said. 

Where are flights not affected? 

Flights to south-east Asia are not subject to delays at this point, as they do not normally fly over Russian airspace. 

Swiss tabloid Blick reports that flights to Singapore and Thailand, for instance, are not subject to delays at this stage. 

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.