KLM will continue its flights to Belarus for the time being; Resume flights from Tel Aviv tomorrow
Dutch national airline KLM has said it will continue to operate flights to Belarus despite authorities in that country using an unsubstantiated bomb threat claim to force a Ryanair plane in its airspace to land at Minsk. At the same time, the Dutch airline said it would resume flights to Tel Aviv after a temporary hiatus introduced on May 13.
State media in Belarus said the country’s President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Sunday ordered a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to be forced to land as part of a plan to arrest the activist and opposition journalist Roman Protasevich. They did so by advising the flight crew that a bomb threat had been issued against the flight and that it was to land immediately. A fighter jet was scrambled to escort the passenger flight to the ground.
Once in Minsk, the plane was evacuated and Protasevich was arrested. The rest of the passengers were allowed to board again without the activist for the remainder of the flight. Protasevich, 26, was returning to Lithuania after a vacation in Greece and has been detained since then.
“We have consulted all of our sources, including the government, and carried out our risk assessment,” a spokesperson for the Dutch airline told broadcaster NOS. “KLM sees no security risk. The operation will continue as normal.”
Many Western countries, including the Netherlands, have criticized Belarus for hijacking the plane as a political maneuver. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called it “unacceptable and unprecedented”. MEP Sjoerd Sjoersma argued that no Belarusian airline Belavy flights should be allowed into European airspace.
Following the arrest, many officials from other countries called on airlines to stop flying in Belarusian airspace. Latvian airline Air Baltic has said it will fly over the country longer for the time being. The company said it would only do it again when the situation becomes clearer or when its government issues advice.
Resumption of KLM flights to Tel Aviv
KLM will also continue to operate flights to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv from Tuesday, an airline spokesperson told Nu.nl. Flights will resume on condition that all parties involved in the Middle East conflict adhere to the recent ceasefire.
KLM halted flights to the region on May 13 following the worst violence the region has seen since 2014.