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Canada Shuts Its Skies to Aeroflot

    Monday, November. 3, 2003
    The Moscow Times
    Canada restricted Aeroflot's access to its airspace on Saturday, forcing Russia's national carrier to reroute all of its flights to and from the U.S. West Coast and cut half of its service to Toronto. Aeroflot deputy general director Lev Koshlyakov said by phone Sunday that all flights to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle will now fly over Kamchatka and Alaska and thus take longer than the shorter polar route over Canada. He also said the company had been forced to cut its flights to Canada from four a week to two.
    Canada took the action in response to Russia's decision in September to bar Air Canada from flying over Russia on its new daily service between Toronto and New Delhi, which would cut flying time by an hour.
    The standoff, which was discussed by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Jean Chretien at last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand, is a result of differing interpretations of India's geographical status. Ottawa insists that under its bilateral aviation agreement with Moscow, India should be considered part of the "Asia Pacific," an area Canadian airlines can service via Russian airspace. Russia says India is not part of the Asia-Pacific region.
    "Russia imposes some capacity limits on flights to the Far East and the Asia Pacific. Canadian flights are well within the capacity limits. India is part of the Asia Pacific and is recognized as such by the International Civil Aviation Organization," Jennie Chen, spokeswoman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said by e-mail.
    Canada exercised its right under the bilateral agreement "to limit, suspend or revoke the rights or privileges granted by the agreement" if a dispute cannot be solved diplomatically.
    Air Canada has said that it does not see how its service to New Delhi can be considered competition for Aeroflot. Both Aeroflot and Russian aviation authorities, however, say that more than half of the passengers on Aeroflot's New Delhi-Moscow route fly on to Toronto on another Aeroflot flight.
    Koshlyakov said the feud obviously raises fuel costs for both sides, although he wouldn't estimate how much Aeroflot stands to lose. He said Aeroflot will now fly to Toronto only on Mondays and Saturdays, and will switch from Boeing 767s to the larger 777s.
    "Everyone is at a loss in this situation. ... We were not behind the initiative," he said.

    Lyuba Pronina
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