The United States is taking a stand against Belarus in an unusual way, following the government’s interference in a Ryanair flight in late May, which was diverted in order for a political opponent to be arrested. This decision was tentatively made last week, but has been finalized this week, after a review period.
Sale of airline tickets to Belarus blocked
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has finalized a ruled prohibiting the sale of airline tickets (including on an interline basis) between the United States and Belarus, except for any transportation deemed to be in the national interest of the United States, including on humanitarian and national security grounds.
Practically speaking, here’s how this is being done:
- A condition will be added to all existing and future air carrier certificates and exemptions in the United States, as well as all foreign air carrier permits and exemptions
- This will prohibit the sale of passenger air transportation, including on an interline basis, between the United States and Belarus
- This will include sales of flights operated directly and indirectly by United States air carriers and foreign air carriers
It’s stated that this is being done at the request of the United States Department of State. On June 28, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, stating:
In light of the Government of Belarus’ diversion of Ryanair flight 4978 on May 23, 2021, and pending the final outcome of an investigation of the incident by the International Civil Aviation Organization, it is in the foreign policy interests of the United States to limit transportation between the United States and Belarus.
Accordingly, I respectfully request the Department of Transportation prohibit the sale of passenger air transportation, including air transportation on an interline basis, between the United States and Belarus until further notice, except for any transportation deemed to be in the national interest of the United States , including on humanitarian or national security grounds.
There was a period for interested parties to file objections to this decision. Since no objections were filed, this has been finalized.
An interesting path for the government to take
We’ve seen many countries take action against Belarus in recent weeks. Some countries have banned their airlines from flying over Belarusian airspace, while other countries have banned Belarusian airlines from flying over their airspace. This has forced Belarusian national carrier Belavia to cancel much of its schedule.
Admittedly the United States implementing a policy like this doesn’t have huge implications — Belavia doesn’t fly to the United States, and no US-based carriers fly to Belarus.
So instead the United States will just block ticket sales to Belarus:
- This doesn’t ban travel from the United States to Belarus, but rather just makes it harder, as people could still travel between the United States and Belarus on separate tickets
- Belarus isn’t exactly a major tourist destination for Americans (though I did go a few years back!), so it seems like this will largely impact those with family and other connections to Belarus, and make their travels more difficult
- The Department of Transportation is just honoring the wishes of the Department of State here; this whole thing feels to me like trying to do something for the sake of doing it, rather than it having much significance
The United States has now officially blocked the sale of flights to & from Belarus, following the government’s involvement in diverting a Ryanair flight to arrest a political opponent. This decision was tentatively made last week, but has been finalized after a brief commenting period.
While I’m happy to see some action being taken against Belarus, I’m not sure this accomplishes a whole lot? Those who want to travel between the United States and Belarus can continue to do so, it’ll just be more expensive and difficult, as they’ll need to book two tickets. Since Belarus isn’t a major tourist destination for Americans, this will largely impact those who have family and other connections there.
What do you make of the USA banning ticket sales to Belarus?