British airlines have been banned from landing at Russia’s airports and from crossing its airspace, the Russian civil aviation regulator has said.
Russia said the move was a response to “the unfriendly decisions by the UK aviation authorities”.
On Thursday, the UK banned Russia’s national airline Aeroflot from landing in Britain.
The measure was part of sanctions introduced following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told ITV: “I think that’s their retaliation for us yesterday banning Aeroflot from using and landing in the United Kingdom. That’s their tit for tat response.”
Russia’s civil aviation authority Rosaviatsia said: “This measure was taken in accordance with the provisions of the Intergovernmental Air Services Agreement between Russia and the UK as a response to unfriendly decisions by the UK aviation authorities regarding the restriction on regular flights of aircraft owned, leased or operated by a person associated with Russia or registered in Russia.”
British Airways said in a statement it was notifying customers on cancelled services and would offer full refunds.
“We apologise for the inconvenience but this is clearly a matter beyond our control,” the airline said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
British Airways normally operates three flights per week each way between London and Moscow.
Following Russia’s announcement, Virgin Atlantic also said flight paths had been adjusted for some of its services between the UK, Pakistan and India. Flight times on these routes will be extended by between 15 minutes and an hour.
Virgin Atlantic apologised for the delays, adding: “The safety and security of our customers and people always comes first and we’re monitoring the situation in Ukraine and Russia extremely carefully following the escalation of conflict.”
Ukraine’s airspace closed on Thursday after Russian forces launched a military invasion of the country.
Moldova also said it was closing its airspace and Belarus shut part of its airspace on Thursday.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has warned of safety risks in flying in airspace near to Ukraine’s borders, including in Russia.
“There is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft,” the regulator said on Thursday.
“The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.”