Earlier this week Spain and Greece expelled Russian diplomats from their capitals and Russia sent an aircraft to retrieve them. While Spain and Greece made a one-time exception for the aircraft to enter their airspace, the flights navigated around other countries that maintain bans on Russian flights. The total length of the flights was 15,163 km, just shy of the current world’s longest flight between Singapore and New York.
Moscow to Madrid
The first leg of the journey took the aircraft from Moscow to Spain the very long way around. The flight needed to remain in international airspace except for its entry into Spain, more than doubling the great circle distance between the two cities.
Moscow—Madrid great circle distance
Moscow—Madrid actual distance
Madrid to Athens
Departing Madrid, the Russian plane flew a direct course out of Spanish airspace and skirted North Africa and the Mediterranean coast, avoiding Maltese and Italian airspace. After crossing Libya in to Egypt, the flight turned north for an approach to Athens.
Madrid—Athens great circle distance
Madrid—Athens actual distance
Athens to Moscow
The flight home from Athens took the aircraft through mostly friendly airspace. Turkey has continued to allow Russian aircraft access, including commercial flights to Turkish destinations. Once out of Turkish airspace the flight continued east, avoiding the area of Russian airspace near Ukraine that has been off limits to most flights since the Russian invasion began at the end of February.
Athens—Moscow great circle distance
Athens—Moscow actual distance
Additional countries have stated that Russian diplomats either will or could be expelled, so it is possible that we’ll see even more circuitous flights by Russia.