Despite the war in Ukraine and looming economic crisis, rich Russians returned “to international travel with a vengeance post-pandemic”, revealed an analysis from ForwardKeys.
Over the course of last year, ForwardKeys, having access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive data on flight bookings, has analysed Russians’ holiday travel trends, showing that, while the number of tourists to most of Europe has dramatically decreased, regions like the Middle East, Türkiye and Asia have enjoyed a surge in visitors.
Due to the sanctions imposed on Russia, blocking direct flights, Russian airlines in EU airspace and suspending the visa-facilitation agreement, seat capacity between Russia and the EU and UK was 99% lower in the period from February 2022 to February 2023 compared to the equivalent period before the pandemic. There were 92% fewer seats to North America, 87% to Asia Pacific, 76% to Africa and the rest of the Americas and just 20% fewer to the rest of Europe.
The greatest impact on air travel to and from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine last February has been war-related sanctions, which have particularly benefitted Turkey and the Middle East, as they have maintained direct flights to and from Russia.Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights, ForwardKeys
On the other hand, seat capacity to the Middle East was 27% greater than before the pandemic. “Perhaps the most surprising trend to emerge during the first ten months of the war, was wealthy Russians returning to international travel with a vengeance post-pandemic, whereas ordinary Russians stayed at home”, the analysis points out.
While economy class bookings went down 70% since the start of the war, on 24 February 2022, compared to pre-pandemic levels, premium class ticket sales went up by 10%. Since the beginning of 2023 however, the numbers have levelled, with premium and economy class tickets falling 26% and 66% respectively behind pre-pandemic levels.
The most eye-opening feature is the premium class boom, which appears to illustrate a division in Russian society between the rich, who holidayed in style, while the less affluent stayed at home.Olivier Ponti, VP of Insights, ForwardKeys
For Russians travelling premium, Thailand was the most successful destination, followed by the UAE, Türkiye, the Maldives and Egypt. Reachable from all three airports in Moscow, Türkiye’s Antalya was the preferred destination overall (premium and economy) for Russians over the past year, followed by Istanbul, Yerevan, Dubai and Tashkent.
Besides the impact on Russian travel, the war has greatly affected times and fares of Europe-Asia flights. “In the year following the start of the war, average airfares between Europe and Asia Pacific were 20% higher than before the pandemic in 2019 and 53% higher than last year. On flight times, 37% of air traffic between the two continents now takes more than eight hours, up from 23% before the invasion”, the analysis points out.