Russian Plane Flying to New York U-Turns Over the Sea and Returns to Moscow

A plane from Moscow bound for New York performed a U-turn over the sea mid-flight and headed back to Russia, amid fresh restrictions in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion.

Aeroflot flight SU124/AFL124 departed Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on Sunday and was due to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK.)

But hours into the flight, website FlightRadar24 shows the aircraft performed a U-turn over the ocean, just off the coast of Greenland, and headed back to Moscow.

The website indicates the plane had a delayed takeoff, finally departing at 12:55 UTC, before the U-turn appeared to take place about four hours into the flight.

The same route, scheduled for March 1, has since been canceled, according to the website.

The plane's flight path was shared to Reddit's There Was An Attempt forum on Monday, by Bostero2, where it received more than 27,000 upvotes. The flight map was captioned: "To fly to New York."

Canada moved to ban Russian planes from using its airspace on Sunday, likely one of the factors prompting the flight to turn back.

Canada's Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted the edict on Sunday, saying: "Effective immediately, Canada's airspace is closed to all Russian aircraft operators. We will hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks against Ukraine."

Alghabra added: "All of Canada is united in its outrage of President Putin's aggression against Ukraine. In response, we have closed Canadian airspace to Russian-owned or operated aircraft. The Government of Canada condemns Russia's aggressive actions and we will continue to take action to stand with Ukraine."

A release added: "The Government of Canada is prohibiting the operation of Russian-owned, chartered or operated aircraft in Canadian airspace, including in the airspace above Canada's territorial waters. This airspace closure is effective immediately and will remain until further notice."

Another Aeroflot craft fell foul of the ban soon after it was imposed, seeing Canada issue a warning to Russian planes.

Flight 111, traveling from Miami to Moscow, took off at 15:12 ET on Sunday, according to FlightRadar24, and used Canadian airspace.

On Monday, Transport Canada tweeted: "We are aware that Aeroflot flight 111 violated the prohibition put in place earlier today on Russian flights using Canadian airspace.

"We are launching a review of the conduct of Aeroflot and the independent air navigation service provider, NAVCAN, leading up to this violation. We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations."

A spokesperson for Canada's transport minister claimed NAVCAN, their air-traffic control service provider, had mistakenly permitted the banned aircraft to use Canadian airspace, according to Reuters.

"We are currently cooperating with Transport Canada to investigate the occurrence, and are working with neighboring Air Navigation Service Providers to support rerouting of aircraft prior to them entering Canadian-controlled airspace," the site quoted NAVCAN as saying.

While there are no direct flights from Canada to Russia, previously numerous routes passed through the enormous country's airspace on their way to other destinations.

The European Union also moved to ban Russian planes from its airspace, the president of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, confirmed in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Announcing a slew of measures against Russia, she said: "First, we are shutting down the EU airspace for Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft.

"They won't be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU. Including the private jets of oligarchs."

On Reddit, numerous people theorized the EU ban could have played a wider role in the diversion than Canada's ban.

Pizzzahero wrote: "If they had landed, they would have been considered a "new" flight on their way back and wouldn't have been allowed into EU airspace. So they turned around instead, because the EU wasn't going to enforce that on existing flights that were already in the air at the time of the announcement."

StenSoft commented: "Nope, they were approved all the way to New York with their flight plan. They returned because the European ban on new flights came in effect and they wouldn't be able to return to Russia after they landed in New York."

Ison-J wrote: "I'm not an expert at all but I believe a good number of European countries have decided to ban all Russian aircraft from entering their airspace so they'd have to go around multiple countries or not go back at all."

Newsweek reached out to Aeroflot for comment.

File photo of Aeroflot plane.
A file photo of an Aeroflot plane. A plane from Moscow to New York turned around mid-flight and headed back to Russia. AFP Contributor/Getty Images