Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

EU Bans Russia-Linked Turkish Southwind Airlines

Sat 30 Mar 2024 | 10:43 PM
Israa Farhan

The European Union has taken a significant step by prohibiting Turkey's Southwind Airlines from entering its airspace due to alleged connections with Russia, according to reports from Swiss-based news outlet Aero Telegraph.

The move is said to be in response to sanctions against Russia amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Southwind Airlines, based in Antalya, was initially established in 2022 to facilitate travel between Russia and Türkiye.

However, its recent request to expand its operations to include flights from Turkey to various EU countries, including Germany, Greece, and Finland, was met with scrutiny.

On March 25, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency banned the airline from its airspace, citing an investigation that revealed significant ownership ties to Russian stakeholders, leading to concerns about the carrier's operations within the EU.

Brussels subsequently notified EU member states on March 28 that Southwind Airlines would face a comprehensive ban on take-off, overflight, and landing in EU airspace, in line with regulations pertaining to sanctions on Russia.

This immediate measure effectively restricts the airline's access to EU airspace.

The Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) responded by canceling Southwind flights between Antalya and Kaliningrad on Friday, attributing the decision to the ban, which disrupts previous flight paths through EU airspace.

Questions surrounding the background of Southwind Airlines surfaced last December when the German tabloid Bild raised concerns. 

The publication reported that the airline, established by Russian nationals, largely depended on staff and aircraft leased from Nordwind Airlines, a Russian carrier banned from the EU.

In response, Safa Oruc, head of aviation safety at Southwind, asserted to Finnish news outlet YLE that the airline was owned by a Turkish national and registered in Türkiye, disputing claims of Russian ownership.

The EU's decision to close its airspace to Russian aircraft and airlines came in response to the conflict in Ukraine, with similar measures implemented by the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.

In February, the EU and US expanded sanctions against Russia, targeting various entities in multiple countries, including Türkiye.

This move resulted in sanctions against 16 Turkish companies for their alleged facilitation of dual-use goods transit to the Russian military. 

Additionally, Washington cautioned Ankara of potential secondary sanctions on Turkish banks and companies engaging in business with Russian entities.