EASTERN EUROPE AIR CARGO SUPPLEMENT~ Russia extends overflight rights for Lufthansa, again

The issue over Russia's denial of overflight rights to Lufthansa Cargo continues to percolate as another extension has been granted while bilateral negotiations take place. Heiner Siegmund has the latest.

Russia has again extended the right to cross Russian airspace to Lufthansa Cargo (LH Cargo) until 31 March 2008. The deadline set by the Russians originally was supposed to end 29 February.

Now a further extension was conceded in order not to disrupt the ongoing bilateral talks between the German and Russian governments on this politically sensitive issue. So far these meetings have been held in an “atmosphere of conciliation and mutual understanding,” stated a spokesman from Berlin’s transport ministry speaking to Payload Asia.

The talks are however, behind schedule as a result of elections in Russia and the forming of a new administration there. The next meeting between the two parties is now scheduled for March.

Last October Russia suddenly banned all intercontinental east-west flights of Lufthansa Cargo from over-flying Russian airspace, leaving the carrier no choice but to circumvent the Siberian territory, until Moscow relented to German protests. This provisional concession was granted to the carrier until the end of February.

The background of the quarrel is Moscow’s demand that LH Cargo to shift the traffic from their central Asian hub at Astana in Kazakhstan to either Krasnoyarsk or Novosibirsk in Siberia. LH Cargo so far rejected this claim by emphasizing the poor infrastructure of both Siberian airports that poses no CAT system, proper warehousing facilities nor adequate hotels for accommodating crews.