After nearly a year, Russia has reopened its border to passengers flying from India, Qatar, Finland, and Vietnam. This allows travelers with a residence permit to fly to Russia from the four countries, but non-residents continue to be barred. Flights between the countries will also begin operating this week, with several airlines expected to start routes.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the Russian Embassy in New Delhi confirmed that the country had lifted entry restrictions on citizens of India, Finland, Qatar, and Vietnam. This means passengers with Russian residence permits can now return to the country (citizens were always allowed to return). However, other visa holders, including tourism and business, remain banned from traveling to Russia.
The reason to allow flights and passengers from the four countries was based on the respective epidemiological situations. Finland and Qatar both only see around 500 cases daily, while India has around 12,000 daily. Meanwhile, Vietnam is one of the few countries globally that has gone without local cases for months. Overall, these four countries currently have very few cases per head of population.
The easing of border restrictions means that airlines will be able to resume flights between the countries. The Russian government has already announced that Aeroflot will fly to four destinations: Delhi, Hanoi, Doha, and Helsinki, from Moscow. All these flights will operate twice a week, expect Moscow-Doha, which will fly thrice a week.
Flights have been resumed on a reciprocal basis, which means we can expect Qatar Airways, Air India, Finnair, Vietnam Airlines, and others to announce flights soon as well. Qatar is the most likely to restart services to Russia after months of restrictions. Currently, the airline flies to the country using a codeshare with Ural Airlines.
According to TASS, Aeroflot’s frequencies could increase depending on demand for international flights. Tickets on the four mentioned routes are now available on Aeroflot’s website to book. Aeroflot will operate all four routes and not one of its growing subsidiaries.
Border restrictions have meant that international traffic remains far below 2019 levels and will take years to recover fully. However, domestic traffic in Russia has rapidly increased, with airlines reaching the 100% recovery mark. This has helped airlines survive the difficult year gone by, and the resumption of more international flights will be a boon.
Most airlines are waiting for the rollout of vaccines to help demand for international traffic bounce back. With countries already plotting dropping quarantines for vaccinated passengers, 2021 could signal a much stronger recovery for airlines. However, the coming months will remain difficult as borders remain shut and demand stays low.