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Aviation News 

Russia’s airlines schedule a significant increase in flight numbers from June 

Russia’s airlines are planning to considerably boost their flight schedules in June, despite the continuing presence of restrictions across the country’s territories during the Coronavirus pandemic. Some Russian airports are reporting a quadrupling of the number of flight plans, as airlines pin their hopes on the gradual reopening of local Black Sea holiday resorts, whilst international travel bans remain. However, as with the unpredictable nature of the on-going pandemic, the majority of these flights may eventually be cancelled. 

Aeroflot’s Moscow Sheremetyevo base airport reveals that the number of its flights scheduled for June now exceed those of May by 295 per cent. 

Elsewhere in Russia, Simferopol airport in the Crimea peninsular is also recording an increase in flight plans – the total intended available seating capacity here is 936,000 seats – a notable increase over the healthy month of June last year when the airport greeted 690,200 passengers. In May this year the seat load factor on flights to Simferopol did not exceed 33 per cent, so it is likely that the majority of available seats may remain empty next month. In April, Simferopol handled only 29,980 passengers with a further 16,580 in the first 18 days of May. 

Moscow’s smallest airport, Vnuikovo is anticipating a significant rise in passenger traffic numbers in June, as carriers Utair, Azimuth Airlines, Yakutiya Airlines and RusLine have all announced a partial resumption of their flight programmes. More significantly, Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda is also preparing to re-launch operations on June 1 after a full two-month grounding. Nevertheless, Vnukovo points out that the number of flight projections is still far short of those in June 2019. The airport is expecting an approximate 75 per cent decrease in traffic to roughly 600,000 passengers compared to June last year. In the April and May period the traffic total through Vnukovo was just five per cent of that of the same months one year ago. 

Overall, industry analysts believe that the recovery of Russia’s passenger air transport market will be slow, with aircraft initially empty on return flights ahead of when the first wave of tourists head back from their vacations when airlines will be hopeful of generating some revenue on both legs. One possible development for airlines to improve their seat load factor would be if one or more of the competing carriers left the market, they note. In a positive scenario, during the course of the summer, it is believed that, at some domestic destinations, traffic may reach between 60 and 80 per cent of last year’s demand. 


In April and early May Russian travelers were still hesitant about future travel, however towards the end of lockdown the desire to travel is getting stronger. 

The Russian travel industry is gradually reviving as some domestic resorts start preparing to welcome guests in June. According to a YES Group poll, 38% of the respondents intend to travel abroad this year and 41% of people are not ready to leave the country. The survey shows 28% are not yet ready to travel at all. This survey corresponds with the results of a recent Ipsos poll, which also shows that in April 68,2% of Russians were planning their travel abroad no sooner than 6 months after the restrictions are removed, 19,6% were already prepared to go abroad. And most potential tourists  already prepared for international travel are in Moscow (21% of the capital’s residents).  

*What Russians think about travelling – poll conducted among residents of 600 Russian cities with the population over 100 thousand people, aged 18-65. Source: Yes Group. 

The graph shows that 65% of respondents believe that travelling within Russia will be possible by August 2020. 6% – by mid-June, 21% – starting mid-June, 38% – starting late August, 20% – no sooner than late 2020, 16% – after Spring 2021.  

79% believe that travelling abroad will only become possible late August 2020. 1% – by mid-June, 4% – starting mid-June, 17% – starting late August, 35% – starting late 2020, 44% – after Spring 2021.  

Aviasales, a Russian airline ticket search engine, states that 96% of all airline tickets sold in May were to and from Russian cities. The only foreign destinations that remain in demand are the so-called “near-abroad” countries: Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Belarus. According to another ticket search engine, the number of international train tickets sold is now at 3% as compared to the pre-crisis indicators. With European cities still accessible from Minsk, “Belavia” (Belarus) has become the most popular airline among Russians.  

60,5% of Russians who bought tickets in April and May believe that they will be able to travel abroad in June not only to the post-soviet countries but also to Bulgaria, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Spain, Italy, China, South Korea, the Netherlands, the US, and Turkey. Alexey Teplov, marketing director of OneTwoTrip, also mentions that Russians continue to buy tickets to Thailand, the US and the Maldives for Autumn and Winter 2020 and 2021.  

For most Russians, the holiday season of 2020 will start late July and August, not in June, as it normally does. The tourism industry will have to adapt to the changes.  

According to a YES Group poll, 26% of respondents are not planning to cut their travel expenses, and 27 % stated that will have to reduce their travel budget.  “Prices will follow the demand. Many operators today are offering discounts, but as demand grows, so will the prices”, – says Olga Epikhina.  

Russian tourists will “dash” to the sea as soon as the first cancellations of the «strict self-isolation regime» begin.  This was shown by a survey of the Stopkoronavirus.rf website that he conducted on the Telegram channel. The number pf respondents is large – more than 15 thousand subscribers took part in the survey. 61% voted for a vacation at sea after the phasing out of restrictive measures in domestic tourism. Another 38% will choose a vacation in “unspoiled nature”. 29% plan to visit Russian cities which they have never visited before, another 24% chose the option of the excursion program – museums, galleries, temples. 

Travel Industry 

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has advised citizens not to rush abroad this summer, stressing that the risk of Covid-19 being imported into the country should be minimized. 

Yes, some progress has been made in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus infection, but we must remember that coronavirus was [originally] imported from abroad

 “I ask our citizens not to rush… for just a few days of holiday, you could pay a high price”, he added. Mishustin also warned that those who chose to travel abroad could encounter difficulties returning home, as many Russians experienced during the spring. Later on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko announced that 23 of Russia’s 85 regions are ready to enter the first stage of lifting their containment measures, including the opening of sanatoriums with medical licenses.Despite the gradual easing, tough restrictions remain in place at the country’s borders. 

Zarina Doguzova, Head of Russia’s national tourism agency (Rostourism), explained that the state authorities are not planning to create problems to those Russian are willing to travel outside the country, however she said : “we did not yet receive any specific information from our counterparts that their destinations are open for Russian travelers, and we also hope to receive information on all procedures and the preventive measures planned to ensure safety travellers”.  

As the market is expecting the domestic tourism to be reopened in June, a Russian Travel; Industry community conducted a poll among the travel industry payers to find out how many companies will manage to survive if the international travel is not resumed for the summer season. At least 75 % of the respondents stated that they will not be able to overcome the crisis if they sell only the tours inside Russia. Many tour operators continue to sell tickets to foreign destinations. TezTour states that most of the trips are planned for late summer. If international travel is still impossible then, tourists will have the opportunity to reschedule.  

While regular and charter international flights are not operating yet, business airlines continue to be available, as they are not considered means of public transport.  

According to industry and media reports, business jets are now often used to transport small groups of travelers – 10-15 people (as opposed to regular groups of 2-3 people in pre-COVID times), this helps to lower the ticket prices from 4,500€ to 2,500€ per person, but the majority of people who purchase business jet tickets usually have a European passport,  a residence permit or valid long – term Schengen visa 

Border restrictions have also been imposed on cars and pedestrians since March. At the same time, social networks show that Russians often manage to avoid them and enter Belarus by car.  

All major industry events were affected by nCov in spring 2020. MITT Moscow, similarly to ITB, Africa Travel Week, ILTM and ATM were cancelled. Most of the fairs are now rescheduled for 2021 and new “normal” with masks and 2 meter distance as well as 14 days isolation regime upon arrival only made the trends evident.. The industry is now more inclined to have online than offline networking. Most experts of the travel industry predict that future travel fairs will have more problems getting exhibitors and visitors in one place. As compared with zoom or you tube presentations of the destinations r trave; products, offline events seem now to be more complicated and costly and at the end less effective. The traffic to offline events is getting smaller and is hard to predict, while the online visitors and contacts keep growing.    Russian industry experts comment on the traditional travel fairs future prospects:  

General Director “Your TC” “I have been attending only Fitur and ITB in the past couple of years. And the only advantage of being there is seeing my partners from all over the world in one place, but it is unlikely that the offline fairs will remain in the scene for long.  

CEO of Tari-Tour Marina Levchenko believes that one or two global exhibitions, like WTM in London, ITB in Berlin or American POW WOW, will still exist. People from the tourism sector want to get together once or twice a year to see each other but there are also other options how to arrange this at lower costs.” 

General director of Space Travel, Arthur Muradyan, said that offline format of the exhibitions  is no longer relevant and the only interesting part are themed sessions and panel discussions, which can be held online. Most experts, including the organizers of the exhibitions themselves admit that online events have a bigger share now while offline is an “old school “ that may gradually disappear.  


In Abu Dhabi the hotels  are opening as soon as they receive permission from the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi. To obtain permission, hotels must comply with all the recommendations set out in the document drawn up by the Department. 

Montenegro opens its borders to citizens  of some countries with a favorable epidemiological situation. Similar steps are being taken by Croatia, Slovenia and Albania. Foreign tourists are expected there in June. Montenegro, which turned out to be the last European state where the coronavirus entered on March 17, was the first to get rid of it after 68 days. 

The Maldives  released a Draft for New Safety Guidelines. According to the document, the country will open the orders in July and will request the COVID-19 tests from all tourists arriving to Male. The travelers will need to stay in one resort for 14 days and new measures and rules to be implemented for all types of accommodation. No shared facilities and lounges, online check in and check-out procedures and other measures are being discussed with the stakeholders before the guidelines will be adopted as a new regulation for the tourism industry.  

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched the Thai Virtual Tourism Market project. This new online platform will help Thai travel agents remotely organize travel and communicate with representatives of the tourism sector in other countries. Representatives of the Thai tourism industry have already gained access to the platform and the ability to create offers on the site. Registered companies will be able to enter information about the organization and conduct business negotiations remotely. The functions of the service will expand and in the near future it will be possible to compare offers from different companies, as well as chat with representatives of the travel industry. 

Destination News 

Russia confirmed 8,371 new coronavirus infections Thursday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 379,051. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has ordered to lift some of Moscow’s coronavirus restrictions starting June 1. All non-food shops and some service sector businesses will be able to re-open, he said. The city will also test lifting restrictions on walks outside using a schedule system for apartment buildings and all parks except for Zaryadye Park will re-open. Russia will no longer include asymptomatic coronavirus patients in its daily count of new infections and deaths, the Health Ministry said. Moscow’s coronavirus restrictions will be in place until a vaccine is developed, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said

The Ministry of Economic Development reported a 12% drop in GDP in April 2020.  

According to the Federal State Statistics Service estimate, the number of unemployed Russians in April rose to 4.3 million (vs. 3.5 million in March), the unemployment rate reached 5.8% – a maximum of four years. In April 2020, the unemployed increased by 21% compared to April 2019, and by 23.4% compared to March 2020. Thus, the unemployment rate in April amounted to 5.8% compared to 4.7% in March 2020, which is the highest value since April 2016. 

The volume of services paid by Russians in April fell by 38% compared to April 2019 and by 34% compared to March 2020. Retail sales fell by 23.4% compared to April 2019, including sales of food products – by 9.3% year-on-year, and sales of non-food products by 36.7%. 

After some industry enterprises resumed work on May 12, Russians began to make purchases noticeably more often, although their purchasing activity is still lower than before the pandemic. The average number of purchases in Russia grew by 18%. The number of online purchases has grown by more than 20%. During self-isolation period, the share of non-cash payment has increased by 8 percentage points: from 56% in February-March to 64% by May 21. 

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