EU bans Turkish Southwind Airlines due to Russian ties

A supposedly Turkish startup charter carrier, Southwind Airlines, has been banned from European Union (EU) airspace amid question marks over the firm’s ownership and operations. Finland initially alleged that the airline is controlled by Russian interests and implemented a flight ban on its Finnish operations on 25 March 2023. The EU has now followed suit.

Associated with Russian players

Announcing the Finnish ban, Jarkko Saarimäki, head of Traficom, Finland’s transport authority, said an investigation had uncovered ties between Southwind and other entities. In particular, the airline’s operations and personnel are believed to have deep rooted links with Nordwind Airlines, a carrier which is under the ownership of Pegas Touristik, a Russian travel agency.

“Our overall assessment indicates that a significant portion of ownership and effective control does not belong to Turkish individuals or companies,” Saarimäki said, adding: “We have concluded that the airline and its control are associated with Russian players.” The ban put an immediate stop to Southwind flights between Finnish capital Helsinki and Antalya.

Effective immediately

In line with Article 31 Regulation 833/2014 which has governed sanctions on Russia since 2014 due to its aggression in Ukraine, the now EU-wide ban will also come into effect right away, Brussels informed EU member nations. As a result, Southwind Airlines, also known under the banner of Cortex Aviation and Tourism Trade, will be denied entry into EU airspace and therefore will no longer be allowed to fly, take off or land in the EU.

Logistics chain

Launched in 2022 in Antalya, Türkiye, Southwind Airlines was born with the idea of protecting Turkey’s growing slice of the Russian tourism market, amid the near collapse of Russia’s aviation offer to some countries. The corridor to Türkiye was also part of the “logistics chain” (alongside Central Asia, Iran, Singapore) helping to supply the Russian aviation sector with crucial parts and servicing to relieve the pressure created by sanctions.

The carrier has since specialised in flights to and from Russia, connecting a number of Russian cities to various European cities and destinations in Germany, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, and Switzerland.

While Switzerland and North Macedonia are not members of the European Union, they are both effectively landlocked by EU countries or would-be members, making it impossible for Southwind to continue flying there. It was due to begin flights to the UK later in 2024 but the UK is among countries implementing trade sanctions against Russia.

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