Get your world globe out. You'll see that a polar route is often the most direct way to get from many places in the Northern Hemisphere to other places in the Northern Hemisphere, where most of us live. But there is one big problem: so many of those polar routes go over Russia. The USSR didn't allow other countries to use their airspace. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia relaxed the restrictions, but only to a point. Airlines saved a lot of money by flying more directly, but Russia takes a big chunk of that money for itself. They also have control of who gets to use those routes. Wendover Productions explains the complexities of polar air routes.
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