As the number of new Covid-19 cases drops steadily worldwide, the Russian government is moving forward with plans to gradually reinstate a number of international flights.
Starting Thursday, the flights between Moscow and the capital cities of Austria, Hungary, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Morocco and Croatia were scheduled to resume following a suspension imposed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, Russia is officially resuming charter flights to Albania’s capital of Tirana.
In mid-March, 2020, as the novel coronavirus transitioned into a global pandemic, the world's largest country sealed off its borders for foreigners in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, only allowing special flights evacuating Russians from abroad. As a result of the country's program to repatriate Russian nationals, over 92,000 Russians from over 70 countries were brought back home since global coronavirus restrictions were introduced.
Although Covid-19 is far from over, Russia’s coronavirus response center reportedly announced in late May that the coronavirus situation in certain countries allows to reopen some passenger flights "to and from the following countries on a mutual basis."
The decision to resume air service is based on three criteria on which the Russian government assesses countries' epidemic situations every two weeks before relaunching flights. Flights are permitted to countries where Covid-19 cases are less than 40 per 100,000 people over the last 14 days, where the average daily increase in new cases over the last 14 days is no higher than 1% and where the current rate of transmission is less than one.
Starting in August, Russia partially resumed flights to and from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Venezuela, Greece, Germany, Singapore, Serbia, Ethiopia, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Finland, Japan, the Maldives, Cuba and the Seychelles. On May 25, Russia resumed flights to and from Iceland, Malta, Mexico, Portugal and Saudi Arabia.
However, Russia’s flight restrictions to Turkey, a popular destination for Russians, will stay in place until at least June 21, in a move that could cost the Turkish industry 274 million euros ($334 million) alone in June, according to the Russian Association of Tour Operators (ATOR). At the same time, Turkish tourism operators believe the figure could reach more than $500 million.
Air service between Russia and Turkey was temporarily restricted from April 15 to June 1. The decision to extend its flight ban to Turkey erased hopes to revive a tourism sector that has been suffering from a year of pandemic restrictions. The two-week delay will take a toll on cities that have become hotspots for Russian tourists.