(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has issued an order prohibiting all American air carriers, both commercial and freight, from traveling in the airspace over Crimea and part of the Black Sea.
The order is in response to Russia taking control of the Crimea air region and the potential for conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian authorities.
Russian air traffic controllers have been communicating with all aircraft flying through the zone, creating confusion.
There has already been one incident reported to U.S. officials in which both Ukrainian and Russian controllers were trying to communicate with an unidentified European carrier.
A worst-case scenario painted by a senior official is that two planes could be flying on the same route while communicating to different air traffic systems that are not in contact with each other. Ukrainian and Russian air traffic controllers will not talk to each other at the present time because of the current hostilities.
“This is what happens like with war zones,” a senior U.S. official said of the air-route prohibitions. But there is one key difference: “This is a critical route for Mideast-to-Europe air traffic,” the official said.
U.S. officials expect a number of nations to follow suit and bar their planes from flying over the contested area.
The re-routing of planes is expected to add time and distance to various flights, which will translate to increased cost, delays and air congestion.
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