Both S7 Airlines and Aeroflot have temporarily suspended flights to Turkey due to ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions. Currently, almost all flights have been canceled until June 1st under restrictions from the Russian government. The government may choose to extend travel restrictions beyond this date.
Reports suggest that the Russian government ban on flights to Turkey may well be extended until June 30th, although this hasn’t been confirmed officially. But airlines aren’t taking any chances. Yesterday, Aeroflot confirmed it was suspending all flights in an attempt to avoid cancellations. The airline will still operate a maximum of two flights a week to necessary travel.
Today, S7 joined Aeroflot by announcing it has canceled all flights for the rest of the summer. The airline has said the uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions has made it too difficult to keep Turkey on its schedule. A representative told Reuters that “we will be ready to resume sales as soon as the epidemiological situation stabilizes and flights resume.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
A blow for Turkey
This decision by the two major Russian airlines is not good news for Turkey. Experts are suggesting that approximately 500,000 Russian tourists head to Turkey each summer. The airlines’ choice to cancel flights for the whole summer season will be a significant economic blow for the country.
However, the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy has confirmed that Turkey plans to open for tourists from June 1st. Yesterday, Ersoy headed to Russia with other key Turkish ministers to discuss tourism and the possibility of Russia lifting travel restrictions.
It works both ways
Although things aren’t looking great for Russian Airlines right now, Aeroflot has said it would wait until a decision from the Russian government before canceling flights for longer. If the government does lift restrictions on June 1st, both Aeroflot and S7 will likely resume operations as soon as possible.
The lifting of restrictions will also see Turkish Airlines able to resume operations to Russia. Currently, only two return flights a week are allowed under current Russian restrictions. This is the same number operated by Aeroflot.
Are travel restrictions becoming political?
The official reason for the travel restrictions, which were announced in April, is the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey. However, some have argued that Russia is using travel restrictions as a political move. Russia announced the new restrictions just two days after the Turkish President met with the Ukrainian President. Russian and Ukraine have high political tension.
Concerns about political issues influencing travel restrictions have plagued bans since the beginning of the pandemic. In Europe, there were cries that the UK’s decision to leave the EU would affect travel restrictions. Australia has also been accused of unnecessarily harsh restrictions against Australian citizens returning from India. There was also talk of travel bans and restrictions being used to win political favor during the 2020 election in the US.
Many are pointing to the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is now advising against international travel bans. According to a WHO report, travel bans are only effective at the beginning of an outbreak and are now too restrictive on a country’s economic response. This has led to suggestions that travel bans are now in place as political maneuvers. Political or not, Russia’s ban against Turkey will be bad for airlines if it is extended beyond June 1st.
What do you think of the travel bans still in place? Should people be following the WHO’s advice? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.