Published: 04th June 2021
What the FAQ: How will the Belarus flight diversion incident affect the rules of air travel?
Belarusian air control forced a Ryanair flight to land under a false claim of a bomb in the aircraft. Here's a look at how this will impact aviation law
A Ryanair flight headed from Athens to Vilnius on May 23 was interrupted by air traffic control from Minsk while they were flying over Belarus. The voice on the other end announced that a bomb was on board. Following this, the Ryanair plane immediately landed. Here, the Belarussian authorities captured two passengers, Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, a wanted opposition activist in the region and his girlfriend. Now that the world has learnt that the information passed on from Minsk, let’s have a rundown of how this has impacted the laws of air travel as we know it.
What consequences will this incident have on air travel?
According to the first article of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, every nation ‘has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory'. Pilots are routinely instructed to trust the word of air traffic controllers above all else. This action by the easter European country questions the basic rules of global aviation. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations said that the ‘unprecedented act of unlawful interference will potentially upend all the assumptions about the safest response to bomb threats on flights and interceptions’. They unanimously called for an independent enquiry into it and an appropriate, immediate response by safety and security authorities.
How did authorities react to the false bomb alert?
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary responded by saying that the incident was nothing less than ‘state-sponsored hijacking’. Leaders in Europe and the United States have condemned the move. The European Union announced that they will introduce sanctions to punish those who are responsible. Other countries have also confirmed that they will ban Belarus airlines from flying over their airspace.
Who was responsible for this?
Belarussian authorities later made the claim that the diversion occurred due to an email that they received from the Palestinian rebel group Hamas, who denied any part in the incident. German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to the claim saying that it was ‘completely implausible’. President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, also announced in the country’s parliament that the email originated in Switzerland, which the country denied.