From the start of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 to the end of December, higher class tickets for travel to Russia increased by 10% from pre-pandemic levels.
Travel sanctions didn’t stop wealthy Russians from going on vacation in 2022, according to a report. When Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, the European Union suspended visas for Russian citizens.
However, wealthy Russian citizens simply decided to vacation elsewhere, while Russians without big budgets stayed at home, as travel in economy class during the same period fell by 70% compared to 2019 levels.
According to ForwardKeys, the number of seats that an airline sells on flights from Russia to the European Union has fallen by 99% compared to the pre-pandemic situation.
This limitation of places occurs because most European countries are restricting the number of visas they offer to Russian citizens. But many destinations continue to welcome them.
Thailand seems to be one of their most popular destinations, with an 81% increase in business class travel over 2019. Premium travel to the United Arab Emirates is up 108%. Tourists have also flocked to Turkey (+41%), Maldives (+137%) and Egypt (+181%).
However, there is no shortage of tickets to these destinations. The number of seats on flights between Russia and the Middle East increased by 27% compared to the equivalent period before the pandemic.
Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines have benefited the most of the increase, according to Olivier Ponti, vice president of insights at ForwardKeys.
“The greatest impact on air travel to and from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine last February has been war-related sanctionswhich have especially benefited Turkey and the Middle East, as they have maintained direct flights to and from Russia,” he said.
Travelers have flocked to Antalya, the Turkish paradise. Flights from Moscow’s three main airports, Vnukovo, Domodedovo and Sheremetievo, increased by 144%, 77% and 74% respectively, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
But this travel boom is strictly limited to the wealthy, Ponti said. “The most striking feature is the rise of the upper classwhich seems to illustrate a division in Russian society between the wealthy, who go on luxury vacations, and the poor, who stay at home,” he said.
However, the rise in travel by the rich appears to have plummeted by 2023, according to FlightKeys. International travel has tanked, even for them. Bookings for higher class flights are 26% below 2019 levels and economy class 66% below.
The war in Ukraine closed the airspace over much of Ukraine and Russia. This means increased flight times. 37% of air traffic between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region now takes more than eight hours, compared to 23% before the invasion. Average rates have also risen, as the cost of living has skyrocketed.