Lufthansa says Russia banned cargo flights over its territory

BERLIN_Russia has banned Lufthansa Cargo flights over its territory, disrupting service on 49 connections a week from Frankfurt to Astana, Kazakhstan, a spokesman for Deutsche Lufthansa AG confirmed Wednesday.

"Since October 28, we are flying around Russian airspace," Peter Schneckenleitner said. "Each roundtrip takes an extra three hours and we are having significant delays."

Lufthansa passenger flights were not affected by the ban.

He said the reason for the ban was a "disagreement with Russia about the royalties it charges for overflights" above its territory.

A spokesman for the Russian Transport Ministry denied that Lufthansa Cargo flights had been banned, saying the company had been flying over Russia under a temporary license that expired Oct. 27.

"If they want to resume flights they have to formally apply for new permission," said Timur Khikmatov.

Khikmatov said that there are no issues between Russian authorities and the German carrier. "I do not understand this hysteria on their part."

The Russian airline Aeroflot Cargo reported in the meantime, that its cargo flights had been briefly banned from flying to Germany.

Aeroflot Cargo said that it lost its permission to fly to Germany on Monday "in response to Russia's introduction of some bans of flights of the Germany company Lufthansa Cargo over Russian territory."

Permission was restored Tuesday and flights resumed, the company said.

The German Ministry of Transport said Wednesday that Aeroflot Cargo had been allowed to resume its flights, but that talks with Moscow about ending Lufthansa Cargo's overflight ban had not yet led to results.

"We assume that the nuisance will soon be cleared," ministry spokesman Sven Ulbrich said.

Schneckenleitner also expressed confidence a resolution could be reached.

"However, if the situation stays like this we will soon have to reduce flights," he said. Schneckenleitner could not give an estimate on the financial impact of the ban.

Astana is Lufthansa's main cargo hub on its route to Asia.

Lufthansa Cargo is a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG.


Associated Press Writer Bagila Bukharbayeva contributed to this report from Moscow.