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Singapore Airlines to stop flying over Belarus after reporter's arrest

Singapore’s flag carrier airline is to avoid Belarusian airspace, according to press reports Tuesday. File Photo Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE
Singapore’s flag carrier airline is to avoid Belarusian airspace, according to press reports Tuesday. File Photo Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE

May 25 (UPI) -- Singapore Airlines said it will cease using Belarusian airspace for flights to and from Europe, according to multiple press reports.

The airline said Tuesday its planes will stay away from Belarus, after a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, was ordered to land by Belarusian air traffic control, Channel News Asia and Straits Times reported.

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"The safety of our customers and crew is our top priority," a Singapore Airlines representative said, according to the report.

"We are currently rerouting our flights that are bound for Europe to avoid the Belarusian airspace, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation."

RELATED EU, U.S. to punish Belarus over arrest of activist in forced landing

Singapore's flag carrier airline is taking precautionary measures after the Ryanair flight that was intercepted by a Belarusian fighter jet Sunday landed in Minsk. Passengers were ordered to disembark the plane. Authorities later arrested Belarusian reporter Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

Belarus claimed authorities were acting in response to an alleged bomb threat. On Monday the country said air traffic control had provided guidance but not ordered the Ryanair plane to land, according to reports.

European airlines also have issued similar policies in response to the incident.

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RELATED World leaders condemn Belarus for 'hijacking' flight to arrest dissident reporter

Air France has begun flying over Latvia instead of Belarus, as have Lufthansa and British Airways, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

The new route adds more distance and time to flights.

The decision could hurt Belarus' bottom line. The country earns $60 million to 70 million in annual air transit fees. The re-routing of flights could halve those earnings, according to Oleksandr Laneckil of aviation consultancy Friendly Avia Support.

RELATED European court says British surveillance program violated privacy laws

Some countries in the European Union also are suspending the operating permit of Belarus' state airline Belavia after the EU condemned Protasevich's arrest, according to the report.

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