Last week the US Department of Transportation proposed banning the sale of flights between the US and Belarus. Today, following no objections being filed, that ban takes effect. All U.S. air carrier certificates and exemptions, as well as all foreign air carrier permits and exemptions, now contain the following phrase:
Effective immediately, and until further order of the Department, the holder and its agents are prohibited from the sale of passenger air transportation, including air transportation on an interline basis, between the United States and Belarus, except that nothing in this condition shall preclude the operation of any transportation deemed to be in the national interest of the United States, including on humanitarian or national security grounds.
The ban affects all carriers and includes connecting itineraries on a single ticket. Flight options are limited anyways owing to European limits, but today’s move should further restrict access.
While no parties filed an objection to the proposed rule the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) filed a brief expressing its strong support of the proposed action.
The aggressive and unwarranted interception of a passenger aircraft over Belarus is a flagrant violation of Belarus’s obligations as an ICAO member, and flaunts accepted norms of international behavior. Moreover, providing false information to the flight crew and unleashing a military fighter jet to force a civilian airliner down in Belarus territory is a threat to flight safety and human lives.
The action requested by the State Department and proposed implementation by DOT is an important “next step” in responding to the transgression of civil air rights initiated by Belarus. ALPA urges that the DOT continue to work in concert with the State Department to ensure that all measures of sanctions at State’s disposal are deployed to compel a final and apologetic resolution by Belarus. A message should be sent that aggressive action against civil aircraft will be met with a swift and appropriate response to deter similar conduct by any other would-be state actors.
Aviation as political tool
The US action comes at the request of the State Department, a politically motivated move to apply pressure to Belarus. The US move follows four weeks after European regulators prohibited operation of aircraft in the country where the operating certificate was issued by EASA.
International airline lobbying group IATA opposed EASA’s moves at the time, with Director General Willie Walsh stating, “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Politics should never interfere with the safe operation of aircraft and politicians should never use aviation safety as cover to pursue political or diplomatic agendas.”
This is far from a new concept in global diplomacy, however. The US previously used similar justification to effect limits on operations from Cuba and Venezuela.
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