Following a meeting on May 24, 2021, the European Council has resolved to ban all Belarus airlines from landing in the European Union and from transiting its airspace.

The Council's conclusions have also appealed to all EU airlines to avoid overflying Belarus.

The European Council is a body comprising the heads of states and governments of all 27 EU member states. However, it does not have direct legislative power, and all of its conclusions need to be passed into law by other bodies, including the European Commission and the Council of the European Union. As such, the ban is not immediately effective.

Flag carrier Belavia (B2, Minsk National) is the only Belarus airline operating scheduled flights to the European Union. According to the ch-aviation schedules module, the airline currently connects Minsk with 19 destinations in the bloc. Cargo specialists Rada Airlines, Rubystar Airways, BySky, and Genex all hold EASA Third Country Operator certificates, permitting them to operate charter flights.

The conclusions were adopted in the wake of the state-backed hijacking of a B737-800 operated by Buzz (Poland) on behalf of its parent Ryanair on May 23. The aircraft, en route from Athens Int'l to Vilnius, was notified by air traffic controllers of a potential bomb on board while in Belarus airspace and ordered to land at Minsk National, even though it was closer to Vilnius at that time. The Air Force and Air Defense Forces of Belarus scrambled a MiG-29 fighter to force the aircraft to divert to Minsk. Upon landing in the capital, independent journalist Roman Protasevich was detained. The aircraft, SP-RSM (msn 44791), departed for Vilnius after around seven hours on the ground.

The Belarus authorities have since confirmed the order to force the aircraft to land were issued directly by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ahead of the Council's decisions, several countries and airlines have implemented their own bans affecting air traffic with Belarus.

airBaltic (BT, Riga) was the first airline to formally announce it would avoid Belarus airspace from now on.

"As an immediate action, airBaltic has decided to avoid entering Belarus airspace until the situation becomes clearer or a decision is issued by the authorities... On May 23, airBaltic followed the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recommendation as a precautionary measure to exercise caution when operating within or over Minsk," the Latvian carrier said.

Due to prevailing network cuts, the decision has so far impacted a limited number of flights, including a service from Tbilisi to Riga and a round-trip from Riga to Odesa, where its flight paths avoided Belarus airspace altogether. Most of airBaltic's European routes do not transit Belarus airspace. Wizz Air and Lufthansa have also resolved to avoid overflying Belarus and suspended services to Minsk in Lufthansa's case. Lufthansa's last departure from Minsk on May 24 was delayed for two hours due to a false bomb alarm.

airBaltic, Lufthansa, and Poland's LOT Polish Airlines are the only European Union carriers that operate scheduled flights to Minsk.

Lithuania's Minister of Transport, Marius Skuodis, said the country would not permit the landing or departure of any aircraft that has crossed or intends to cross into Belarus airspace. Ukraine has issued a similar ban.

The UK Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has announced that the UK would advise, via the Civil Aviation Authority, all of its airlines to avoid Belarus airspace. He said that it would also revoke Belavia's operating permit. The state-owned airline operates 3x weekly between London Gatwick and Minsk using E195 regional jets, the ch-aviation schedules module shows.