SINGAPORE, May 9, 2022: The latest air ticketing data from ForwardKeys reveals that Russian outbound tourism, already severely handicapped by pandemic travel restrictions, has further declined due to Russian military operations in Ukraine.

But affluent travelers are still flying, but not to Europe.

Russia Outbound Ticket Drop

In the week before the outbreak of war (with February 18), international airfares from Russia were 42% of pre-pandemic levels; but in the week immediately following the invasion (w/c February 25), airfares issued fell to just 19%. Since then, flight bookings have fallen further and hover around 15%.

Due to war-related sanctions on civil aviation, Russians cannot book flights to many of their favorite destinations in the West; instead, they book trips to Asia and the Middle East.

New alternative destinations for affluent Russians

An analysis of flight bookings by ForwardKeys made between February 24, the start of the invasion, and April 27, the latest data, reveals that the top five destinations for travel between May and August, in order of resilience, are the Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Bookings in Sri Lanka are currently 85% ahead of pre-pandemic levels, the Maldives 1% behind, Kyrgyzstan 11% behind, Turkey 36% behind and the United Arab Emirates 49% behind.

“However, it should be noted that Sri Lanka’s position at the top of the list does not accurately reflect the attractiveness of the island as a destination. It’s more of a security issue. It is rather a consequence of the terrorist bombings, which frightened visitors in 2019, the pre-pandemic benchmark year,” says Vice President of ForwardKeys Insights at Olivier Ponti.

A closer analysis of recently issued tickets for Turkey and the United Arab Emirates suggests that a significant proportion of affluent Russians are going on vacation. Premium cabin travel is making a comeback. The number of seats sold in premium cabins tripled compared to 2019.

Additionally, the average trip length for high-end travelers is now 12 nights in Turkey and seven nights in the United Arab Emirates.

Changes to flight schedules and routes

Flight schedule changes following the Russian hostilities in Ukraine were as follows:

  • February 24: Southern Russian airspace was closed and Aeroflot was banned from flying to the UK
  • February 25: Russia bans British airlines from its airspace
  • February 27: The EU closes its airspace to Russian planes
  • March 1: The United States bans Russian flights from entering its airspace
  • March 5: Russian airlines (Aeroflot, Ural Airlines, Azur Air and Nordwind Airlines and others) suspend international flights
  • March 25: Rosaviatsia, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, extended the ban on flight operations at 11 airports in southern and central Russia
  • March 25: Vietnam Airlines suspends scheduled flights to Russia
  • April 14: AirBaltic halted flights to Russia – but will return to Ukraine as soon as possible
  • April 22: EgyptAir resumed daily direct flights between Cairo and Moscow. Interesting to watch ahead of the popular Red Sea summer season.

“The war with Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on flights have effectively dried up the Russian outbound tourism market. Those who still fly are an elite, affluent niche that is forced to holiday in Asia and the Middle East rather than Europe. Let’s see how it goes in the summer season,” concludes Ponti.

(Source: ForwardKeys)