This video was made possible by Brilliant. Start learning with Brilliant for 20% off
by being one of the first 200 people to sign up at Brilliant.org/Wendover. This is East Asia—comprised of China, Japan,
Korea, and Taiwan—and this is Europe. 2.4 billion people live in these two areas—a
third of the world’s population. More impressively, each of these two regions
have a GDP of about $20 trillion. Combined, just these countries account for
half of the world’s economic activity. They are two of the world’s most dense,
most developed, and m ost economically interlinked regions and are home to the world’s largest
and most influential cities yet laying between them is just one country—Russia. This more of less means that one country controls
whether Europe can get to Asia and vice versa and for a while, they couldn’t. During the cold war, almost universally, non-soviet
airlines were not allowed to fly over the Soviet Union. This proved a huge barrier to travel. In the 1950’s, flying on BOAC, which later
became British Airways, the fastest route from London to Tokyo involved leaving London
at 10am on Friday and stopping in Rome, Beirut, Bahrain, Karachi, Calcutta, Yangon, Bangkok,
and Manila before finally arriving in Tokyo at 6am on a Sunday. All in all, that was 36 hours and 10,000 miles
of travel to get between two cities 6,000 miles apart and that was also their fastest
service on the Comet jet plane. Their slower and cheaper propeller plane service
would leave London on a Sunday and not arrive in Tokyo until Thursday after 88 hours of
travel. It was just hugely inefficient but there was
a better way—over the Arctic. SAS was the first to develop routes overflying
the Arctic but other airlines soon followed. These routes were first used to get to the
American west coast faster. This involved developing new navigation systems
to overcome the issue of traditional magnetic compasses not working properly in the high
north. In the 1950’s no commercial airplane had
the range to fly to the American west coast non-stop but with SAS’s new polar route
they would take a relatively quick route from Copenhagen stopping in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
and Winnipeg, Canada before arriving in Los Angeles. This cut what was previously a 36 hour trip
down to 22. With SAS having proven that commercial flights
over the Arctic were both safe and commercially viable, other airlines quickly followed not
only setting up routes to the American west coast but also to the far east. The most direct route from London to Tokyo
flies over Siberia, but since that airspace was closed airlines chose another way—the
other way around the world. In 1960, only 40,000 people lived in Anchorage,
Alaska and Alaska had just became a state the year before, but its airport emerged as
a crucial stopping point between Europe and Asia. BOAC’s thrice weekly polar route from London
to Tokyo would leave Heathrow at 1:45 pm, arrive in Anchorage nine and a half hours
later, stop for an hour to refuel, and then fly the remaining seven hours to Tokyo. All in all, it was timetabled to take only
seventeen and a half hours—half of what the trip took before. It was as drastic a reduction in travel time
as when Concorde cut New York to London flights from six hours to three. BOAC wasn’t the only one. All the major European carriers set up routes
to the far east via Anchorage in the 1960s and 1970s. While Anchorage sees only a few dozen daily
commercial flights mostly to the continental US today, in the 1970s it was served by Air
France, SAS, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and more. This tiny town in Alaska quickly became one
of the most connected and cosmopolitan areas of the world with passengers and flight crews
from all around the world stopping over all because of where it was. As aircraft became more advanced with longer
range, there were a few airlines that managed to avoid stopping in Anchorage on their way
from Europe to East Asia. Finnair, for example, starting flying from
Helsinki to Tokyo non-stop in 1983 by flying in international airspace north of Russia
over the North Pole. This made what is today a nine hour flight
thirteen hours but it was still faster than stopping in Anchorage. Overwhelmingly, though, airlines continued
to fly through Anchorage. Eventually, though, the Soviet Union did of
course fall in 1991 and with that Russia started to grant overflight rights to European and
East Asian airlines. They first had to modernize and anglicize
their air traffic control system. All international pilots and air traffic controllers
worldwide speak English but before, since there were few international flights over
Russia, the Russian air traffic controllers didn’t speak english. Once the changes were made, airlines quickly
switched to flying non-stop from Europe to Asia over Siberia. That left Anchorage largely deserted. The airport built a large and modern international
terminal in 1982 to handle all the traffic passing through the airport but then, less
than ten years later, all those airlines that kept the airport busy left in droves. Today, that international terminal, built
to handle hundreds of flights per month, only sees a flight every few days. Russia, meanwhile, is prospering thanks to
the opening up of its airspace. Flying to Asia over Siberia saves airlines
huge amounts of time and money so Russia therefore charges airlines huge amounts of money to
do so. Exact numbers vary by airline and are kept
secret, but for each roundtrip flight between Europe and Asia, Siberian overflight fees
are believed to account for up to $100 of a single passenger’s ticket price. Russia has an enormous amount of power by
controlling this airspace and they use it to their advantage. 133 countries have signed the International
Civil Aviation Organization’s Transit Agreement which essentially allows any airline from
any country to fly through the signatory’s airspace but Russia, however, has not, so
they can pick and choose which country’s airlines get to fly through their airspace. The country can and has used its airspace
as a geopolitical weapon—in 2014 they threatened to shut down their airspace to European Union
airlines in response to sanctions, in 2017 they threatened to close the airspace to Dutch
airlines in response to a reduction in landing slots for a Russian airline at Schiphol airport,
and in April 2018 they tacitly threatened to close their airspace to US airlines in
response to US military action in Syria. But Russia not only decides which countries
can fly in its airspace, it also decides which specific airlines. There is more or less a rule that only one
airline per European country can overfly Russia. There are certainly exceptions—both British
Airways and Virgin Atlantic are London based, for example, but both overfly Siberia on their
routes to Shanghai and Hong Kong, but Air France is the only French airline with Siberian
overflight rights, Lufthansa is the only German airline with overflight rights, Iberia is
the only Spanish airline with overflight rights, and so on and so forth. For the longest while, this wasn’t a problem. European countries aren’t that big and few
had more than one intercontinental airline but nowadays, however, that’s changing. We’re seeing more and more budget airlines
competing with the large, established carriers on long-haul routes but, with this system
of overflight permissions, the legacy carriers more or less have a monopoly on east Asian
routes. SAS, for example, operates out of Norway,
Denmark, and Sweden and they have Siberian overflight rights that take them to destinations
like Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai. SAS is therefore the only Scandinavian airline
allowed to overfly Siberia. But also in Scandinavia is Norwegian Air. As one of the largest low-cost airlines in
the world, Norwegian has pioneered long-haul budget flying mainly focusing on flights from
major European cities to the US. The airline has said, though, that it wants
to expand eastwards. They already have flights from Copenhagen,
Oslo, and Stockholm to Bangkok and from London to Singapore, but these destinations are far
enough south that they don’t involve flying over Siberia. The airline has repeatedly applied for Siberian
overflight rights and repeatedly been denied. They argue that SAS does not operate any flight
from Norway to Asia so they should be granted permission as the only Norwegian airline but,
since SAS is partially registered in Norway, Russia isn’t granting permission. Norwegian does have a subsidiary legally registered
in the UK but its unlikely that Russia would grant overflight rights to this since British
Airways and Virgin Atlantic also have overflight rights. Norwegian airlines also has a subsidiary based
in Ireland which does not have an airline with Siberian overflight rights but, SAS also
has a subsidiary based in the country which could mean that Russia will deny rights to
this subsidiary too. As of now, Russia has not granted overflight
permission to any budget airline. Others have tried—Icelandic airlines Wow
Air and Icelandair have attempted to negotiate overflight rights—but Russia views overflights
as a way to make money and wants to charge fees that would make it impossible for a low-cost
airline. For now, Wow Air has planned to start flights
from Reykjavik to Delhi, India which, in a direct routing would fly over Russia but can
route around Russia by only adding 45 minutes in extra flight time if an arrangement isn’t
made before flights start in December 2018. Russia is a powerful politically-savvy country
that knows that these overflight rights are a huge negotiation tool. Pulling the rights of a country’s airline
would be a huge financial blow and granting rights is also a huge advantage. Competition, though, is good for the consumer
and this current system stifles it. Until Russia starts granting overflight rights
to budget airlines, nonstop flights to Asia will stay expensive. The fact that this shortcut over Siberia is
now open at all, however, saves millions of passengers yearly enormous amounts of time
and money. Watching this ten-minute video of our technological
progress might make you think that we got here in one giant leap, but that, of course,
is not the case. We had to develop new navigation systems to
work around old-school compasses, build airports to help planes refuel, and extend the range
of aircraft. The problem of advancing enough to be able
to fly non-stop to the other side of the world was huge but it was broken down and approached
in small steps. Brilliant works in a similar way—breaking
a problem down, identifying the relevant concepts, thinking clearly through each part, and building
it back up to the conclusion. In this manner, super complex topics like
number theory or calculus can be easily understood by anyone. My favorite from Brilliant is their logic
course, which starts simple, but then builds up your skills so you can solve seemingly
impossible problems. To support Wendover Productions and learn
more about Brilliant, go to brilliant.org/wendover and sign up for free. And also, the first 200 people that go to
that link will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you again
in three weeks for another Wendover Productions video.

The Most Valuable Airspace in the World
Tagged on:                                                                                                                                                     

100 thoughts on “The Most Valuable Airspace in the World

  • July 7, 2019 at 5:15 am
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    WRONG. There were many international flights allowed by the USSR from Europe to Asia starting in the 80's. It did not just start in 1991.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2019 at 5:55 am
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    EU is a US poodle, and has stupidly imposed sanctions on Russians, so there's no reason for Russia to do them any favors, at any price.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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    Every country uses its geopolitical location to bargain, the very Denmark is blocking NordStream II from Russia to Germany due to US pressure….the US sanctions any country at will for the sake of its own interest..and lets not even talk about US against Huawei from China…under weak spy accusations that the US/NSA itself used with the US companies Apple,Google,Facebook etc to spy on everybody in the world..including Presidents (Merkel, Dilma etc…)……so Russia has all the right to play hardball with tis airspace as everybody else, even more if it is valuable to others.

    Reply
  • July 7, 2019 at 6:07 pm
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    Countries involved with international flights should not allow Russian planes to fly over there airspace if the action is not reciprocal. That should take Russia back down a few steps when it comes to allowing who flies over their airspace. I don't know why a single country would allow Russia to fly over their airspace if not granted the same consideration. It's just bolshit that shouldn't be tolerated but it is.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2019 at 7:01 am
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    Eurasian Economic Community? Anyone?

    Reply
  • July 8, 2019 at 2:04 pm
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    wow this guy is so stupid to forget vietnam, wow.

    Reply
  • July 8, 2019 at 8:05 pm
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    Why are you trying to make it look like a bad thing if you have control over your country airspace? If a country makes a hostile move against Russia, Russia by all means needs to make a hostile move back. That is how relationships work.

    Reply
  • July 9, 2019 at 6:39 am
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    ok, but why the crappy background jingle?

    Reply
  • July 9, 2019 at 12:26 pm
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    The middle east countries take advantage of the oil resources they have, the British took advantage of their ocean openings and established sea trade routes with any possible country in the world, why wouldnt the Russia do the same with its advantages?

    Reply
  • July 9, 2019 at 3:10 pm
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    God Russia is such a dick lmao

    Reply
  • July 10, 2019 at 4:32 am
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    First map is deceptive, made it sound and look like planes had to actually land in all those cities on their way to Japan.

    Reply
  • July 10, 2019 at 12:34 pm
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    do you even know what a continent is? Why are you including islands with continents? Don't give me that it sits on the continental shelf bullshit.

    Reply
  • July 11, 2019 at 3:45 am
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    Who else finds this speaker upbeat?

    Reply
  • July 11, 2019 at 3:13 pm
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    Post Brexit i do not think British Airlines will be allowed to fly through russia, UK has pissed them off…

    Reply
  • July 11, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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    Good for Russia…..let's be honest…..globalization was designes to support USA alies.

    Reply
  • July 11, 2019 at 6:51 pm
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    Wow Air in 2018: We're gonna start flights to Delhi

    People in 2019: YOU THOUGHT! YOU THOUGHT! YOU THOUGHT!

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 1:28 am
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    "Drunk seperatest" to much vodka u mad russians

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 6:00 am
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    Russia's the biggest pyramid scheme in the world…

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 6:05 am
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    You don't know what you are talking about. Manchester to Toronto/ Heathrow to Toronto costs more than either airport to Beijing.

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 2:28 pm
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    I like how you haven't include Russia in Europe ,as it was not a technically developed country

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 4:24 pm
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    This video also unintentionally explains why Russia is such an important part of China's Belt and Road Initiative. Road and rail infrastructure across Siberia and European Russia is crucial to promoting land trade between Europe and East Asia.

    Reply
  • July 12, 2019 at 9:29 pm
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    Well played Russia

    Reply
  • July 13, 2019 at 1:33 am
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    Alitalia is the only italian airline that flies from Rome to tokyo and flies over russian airspace.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2019 at 11:39 am
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    Why's Russia ignore such a huge amount of money by not giving travel routes to other airlines?
    Maybe Poetin is still in his KGB
    paranoid period?

    Reply
  • July 13, 2019 at 8:01 pm
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    Russia should instantly quintuple its overflight prices and just say "Sanctions work both ways, Euro-Bitches!"

    Reply
  • July 13, 2019 at 8:32 pm
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    8:31
    Such Sas…. How sasy they are, oh the Sas.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2019 at 10:00 pm
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    Very interesting. Nicely done but the chart presentation is unusual, takes a bit a imagination to get it correct.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2019 at 8:52 am
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    You don't mention the polar route from America to Asia flying through Russia's far east

    Reply
  • July 14, 2019 at 9:22 am
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    Thank God my country is not in that area, I can fly anywhere in Latin America and still enjoy a great weather……..unlike the North, buried under snow in December, I don't think so. It's beach time!!!

    Reply
  • July 14, 2019 at 11:13 am
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    Russia closing it's airspace again? Well, that means good times again I suppose for Anchorage, Alaska, USA. 🙂

    Reply
  • July 14, 2019 at 11:20 am
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    So, another reason I presume to get Putin removed ASAP and instill true democratic reforms in Russia itself. And / Or that the Russian Federation should be split up, granting Siberia aka Yakutia, Magadan, Kamtchatka, Sachalin for example true independence and actual sovereignty.

    Reply
  • July 15, 2019 at 7:39 pm
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    Russia should have charged airlines to fly through their airspace

    Reply
  • July 15, 2019 at 9:30 pm
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    7:27 nonsense. Finnair fly not only over Siberia (77 times a week) but into Siberia as well.

    Reply
  • July 15, 2019 at 11:09 pm
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    Russia are d*cks basically

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 1:42 am
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    Russians still feel extraterrestrials

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 5:46 am
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    Just letting u know Anchorage is busy af so u are rong

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 12:19 pm
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    cough Uhm America?

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 4:16 pm
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    I did go from San Francisco to Dubai… it only took 16 hours, and it did go through Russia.

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 6:31 pm
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    Crimea is a part of Ukraine not Russia. Use correct maps please.

    Reply
  • July 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm
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    This guy has great videos — amazing !!

    Reply
  • July 17, 2019 at 2:11 am
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    You mean overflight privileges. Too many syllables?

    Reply
  • July 17, 2019 at 2:41 am
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    Flying is safer than driving. But driving isn’t that safe, so that ain’t sayin much

    Reply
  • July 18, 2019 at 11:58 am
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    Alaska……,,,

    Reply
  • July 18, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    we lived there in the 1970's and the travel was amazing

    Reply
  • July 18, 2019 at 11:08 pm
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    Another good reason to take Siberia away from the Russians , They ain't using it much anyways.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2019 at 5:54 am
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    20 trillion dollars? That’s only 2 trillion dollars more of the United States gdp

    Reply
  • July 19, 2019 at 5:55 am
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    I love how this guy dosent mention the United States for its gdp

    Reply
  • July 19, 2019 at 4:13 pm
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    I fly this east west west east route from China to Europe twice a week in a 747 400 freighter. What a job. What an amazing , massive place and hardly anyone on the ground for hours and hours. No ideology problems in this part of the world. Long may Putin Rule.

    Reply
  • July 20, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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    Can you imagine if America did this? The uproar of bigotry and racism would be global.

    Reply
  • July 20, 2019 at 7:45 pm
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    I believe some amount of the exhaust from airliners falls to the ground over which the plane flies. Additionally, Russia has reason to have security concerns. As well, the report gave short treatment to the money saved in fuel (and World environmental impact) for the permitted overflights. One would expect at least some of that would be passed on the to the consumer. As well, the article ignored competition between the airlines of different countries allowed to fly over.

    To put it another way, there are other sides to this story which weren't covered.

    Reply
  • July 21, 2019 at 3:09 am
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    Who hates Russia?😡

    Reply
  • July 21, 2019 at 4:21 am
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    Was this supposed to be another anti Russia video?

    Reply
  • July 21, 2019 at 9:23 am
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    Russia sucks!

    Reply
  • July 21, 2019 at 5:56 pm
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    If buddy knew what he was talking about he’d know that there are around 719 flights that leave Ted Stevens daily, so I’m not completely sure about the rest of the info in this😬😬

    Reply
  • July 22, 2019 at 2:36 pm
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    Dear author, your Ikranian- Russian border at https://youtu.be/jdNDYBt9e_U?t=52 is incorrect and even criminal (at least in Ukraine). Please try to guess why!

    Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 12:18 am
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    Im confused as to why so many are so eager to go to Tokyo in the first place

    Reply
  • July 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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    Russia sucks.

    Reply
  • July 24, 2019 at 7:52 pm
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    FASCINATINGGG stuff!! Kudos!

    Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 9:35 am
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    This video is another "lets blame the Russians for everything" piece of Americanism. Why shouldn't Russia control their airspace? It is theirs after all. They are simply playing to their strengths: they have a lot of space. There are a number of airlines starting up in Russia, such as S7 who are trying to get into the market. By restricting movement through their airspace Russia provides these airlines with the opportunity to develop routes to Asia. And they have every right to do this.

    Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    too bad Starship Enterprise
    does not fly commercially….
    they can beam people up & down w/out even landing ……

    Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 8:55 pm
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    Wouldn't budget airline 's benefit by going through the airport in Alaska . Since they don't get many flights it would save the budget airline lots of money. I know that they don't do stop over but they could schedule a flight that just so happens to be on the same they as the flight to get there?

    Reply
  • July 25, 2019 at 10:11 pm
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    When Scotland gets independence, Norwegian can use Edinburgh lol.

    Reply
  • July 26, 2019 at 7:47 pm
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    Russians are simply a*holes

    Reply
  • July 27, 2019 at 5:26 am
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    8:37 How about Norwegian try to register a subsidiary in Russia. Problem solved. don't thank me.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 12:58 am
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    Keep on dreaming Boris. No backstop equels no deal. There is a beautiful English saying: you can' t have your cake and eat it. So you can't step fully out of the EU and keep the borders in Ireland fully open. Let Nothern Ireland join Ireland and the whole issue is dealt with, knowing that the Orangeman derive their name from the royal family of my country. If King William III would have had children Holland might have become part of the UK. World history would be different than.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 5:52 am
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    At the 3:06 mark, that's something confusing. Viewing the globe from the, umm, top of the globe, should maybe have some explanation, or reference…

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 7:48 pm
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    Delhi to Reykjavik flight will be much appreciated and I being a resident of New Delhi travel a lot to tourist place but whenever we fly to London we forgot the Iceland because London itself has much to offer so if a direct flight will be made then tourism boost will help Iceland

    Reply
  • July 28, 2019 at 11:07 pm
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    Flat earth believers left the chat

    Reply
  • July 30, 2019 at 9:28 am
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    Just from a money perspective – the more flights the more $$, why only grant rights to 1 airlines/ country, makes little sense. Fucking politics, states need to go (esp the big ones), decentralize.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2019 at 11:07 am
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    Good Job Russia, fuck those budget airlines. Climate change is happening, the last thing we need now are „budget“ airlines, so that all low–class scum can go to Asia.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2019 at 5:07 pm
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    North Korea: Da fuk?

    Reply
  • August 1, 2019 at 3:44 am
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    To all the people commenting on SAS isn't the only Scandinavian airline Fin Air is also flying over Russia,Finland is not part of Scandinavia.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2019 at 1:32 pm
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    Whats the logic behind granting overflight rights to only 1 airline per country?

    Reply
  • August 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm
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    Wow Air plans to start flying between Reykjavik and Delhi by December 2018.

    Fast forward to March 2019.

    wOw

    Reply
  • August 2, 2019 at 6:10 am
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    Can someone specify where exactly siberia is? Is it near kazhakstan or is it near primorya

    Reply
  • August 2, 2019 at 12:29 pm
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    Nice to have one up on the greedy americans

    Reply
  • August 3, 2019 at 5:48 am
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    So why cant we get pics of the North Pole, supposedly? Since magnetic properties mess up satellites and planes, supposedly?

    Reply
  • August 3, 2019 at 6:01 am
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    So every time you fly American Airlines, you pay the Russians. I wonder how the democrats feel about that? AOC would freak!

    Reply
  • August 4, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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    Russia is the rude thug in class that has made himself unpopular and nobody really wants to be with

    Reply
  • August 5, 2019 at 3:52 am
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    Wouldn't it be practical for budget airlines to use Anchorage?

    Reply
  • August 7, 2019 at 2:21 am
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    Russia is great! Controlling important airways and making 💰 money! That is the best thing ever

    Reply
  • August 8, 2019 at 1:50 pm
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    Väv.cVZZzxc.c.bxcxZXx,CNVNX.N?cncx.Vz..n.zmz..n,

    Reply
  • August 8, 2019 at 9:41 pm
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    I feel bad for Norwegian.

    Reply
  • August 10, 2019 at 2:27 am
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    Who would win

    One third of the world

    Or

    One wide snowy boi

    Reply
  • August 10, 2019 at 5:19 am
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    Money literally controls the world. It’s really sad.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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    Fake news, the earth is flat.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 7:13 am
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    Those budget airlines need to just use Anchorage as a detour to bypass Russia.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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    If nobody fly three there or ask they will allow airlines at a cheaper rate

    Reply
  • August 14, 2019 at 11:37 pm
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    norwegian can't even catch a break

    Reply
  • August 15, 2019 at 4:16 am
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    Why is Russia always so dumb and childish

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 11:00 am
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    0:33 God bless white people

    Reply
  • August 18, 2019 at 1:22 pm
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    On that flight from London to Tokyo. Why not stop or fly over China? China is not the ussr

    Reply
  • August 19, 2019 at 6:33 am
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    SAS scandinavian airlines

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 3:04 am
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    Plane tickets have become way too cheap. The quality of pilots has also depreciated. Why should so many non-essential passengers be flying around just for fun, because of cheap "Budget" tickets? Flying needs to be made more expensive. Half the seats in most airliners should be removed, so that passengers no longer suffer, from being packed in like sardines in a can, while travelling. Fewer, better paying passengers, would free up more space for cargo, and everyone would benefit.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2019 at 3:15 am
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    Sanctions against a country as big, as developed, and as wealthy as Russia, is a stupid mistake. We need Russia on our side!

    Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 6:08 am
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    The propeller service would have to make constant stops to refuel regardless of the route flown.

    Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 3:29 pm
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    Russia being real homosexual

    Reply
  • August 23, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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    Emirates flies over siberia

    Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    The soviet union is that fat child that doesn't wanna move

    Reply

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