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Under the present circumstances it seems like for an European vector flying above Russian airspace can be dangerous (I don't know if Russian airspace is currently closed).

However reaching Japan from Europe requires flying above Russian territory.

With closed Russian air space, what are the options for a passenger route connecting, e.g. Schiphol with Narita?

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  • $\begingroup$ cnn.com/travel/article/ukraine-conflict-world-air-map/… might be of interest. $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ The great-circle route from Kagoshima to Istanbul doesn't (quite) pass through Russian territory; Kagoshima-Athens is similar. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Mar 2 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ It's not that it's dangerous (Ukraine's is dangerous right now, with was confirmed by a lot of NOTAMs). It's that it's closed by Russia for a lot of countries (in response to their closure for Russian companies). $\endgroup$
    – Tauri
    Mar 4 at 4:19

2 Answers 2

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While it won't be the most efficient or direct routes, flights would be redirected South of Russian airspace.

They're probably avoiding Ukrainian air space too, just to be on the safe side. A quick browse of Eastern European airspace on FR24 confirms a large hole in tracked traffic over Ukraine at this time.

Thanks to tml's comment, here is a map image of the Lufthansa flight he noted.

FlightRadar24 trace of recent Lufthansa flight avoiding Russian airspace

Another option would be to go North across the North Pole instead of East. Based on this Great Circle map from Amsterdam to Narita, the GC distance would be 5805 miles. However, adding in Fairbanks to get it to go the other way increases the distance to 7720 miles.

I'm not sure what airports are along the way via the southern route to force a GC map down south, and there would probably be several options. I would imagine though, that a more southerly route is still going to be shorter.

Heading further south to avoid China, should that become necessary, I chose Ho Chi Minh City as a stop between Amsterdam/Schipol and Narita. That route ends up being 8848 miles and the GC route still crosses Western China, so the actual route would be even further, making the "fly East to go West" option a better one.

In summary:

  • AMS-NRT: 5805 miles
  • AMS-FAI-NRT: 7720 miles. An increase of 1915 miles or 33%.
  • AMS-SGN-NRT: 8848 miles. An increase of 3043 miles or 52%.
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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Mar 3 at 5:34
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Another option would be to fly over the pole to Anchorage (4450 miles = 7160 km) and from there to Tokyo (3466 miles = 5577 km). This combined distance (plus a fuel stop) of just over 7900 miles (appr. 12,700 km) compares to the existing Great Circle route over Russia of 5540 miles (appr. 8915 km) -- "only" 50% longer.

I doubt the route referenced in another answer is much shorter than this, since it's well off Great Circle, but my route would require fueling arrangements in Anchorage that Lufthansa probably doesn't already have, vs. fueling in Kazakhstan (give or take a 'stan), perhaps even India, which they might already have.

Routing via Anchorage, however, also avoids flying over China, which could become a complication depending how things continue to play out with Russia.

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    $\begingroup$ They've done it on short notice for freight transporters (FedEx and UPS, etc.) in the past -- due to volcanic eruption, IIRC. A little more complicated for passenger flights, where passengers and crew need "fuel" (and crew need rest) but not insurmountable. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Mar 1 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Anchorage was a common technical stop for passenger flights to/from East Asia before Siberian overflights opened up after the fall of the USSR, and still is for freight. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Mar 1 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ I have called my local representative in Congress requesting they bring up the possibility of reopening Anchorage Airport to international travelers without a U.S. visa, just like how it was before 9/11. $\endgroup$
    – gparyani
    Mar 1 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenS Current U.S. immigration law requires that everyone transiting the U.S., even on technical stops, have a valid visa and go through U.S. immigration and customs; they have no concept of international airside transit. Also, stopped at LAX, not stops in Hawaii: they no longer operate service to London, and when they did, it was via LAX. Before 9/11, those who were transiting could go without a visa and be let into the country by showing their onward ticket at immigration, and that's how transit at Anchorage worked back in the Soviet era. My call was to reinstate this arrangement. $\endgroup$
    – gparyani
    Mar 1 at 23:10
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    $\begingroup$ @gparyani I know the US has always been stupid about transit connections, but I didn’t realize we also broke the case of passengers not even getting off their plane. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Mar 1 at 23:14

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