Flight bookings to eastern Europe collapse following Russian invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s military campaign has hit flight sales almost everywhere else in Europe

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 10 March 2022 08:09 GMT
Ljubljana in Slovenia, one of the countries hit by the bookings slump
Ljubljana in Slovenia, one of the countries hit by the bookings slump (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

After The Independent revealed air fares between the UK and eastern Europe had dropped as low as £15 return this month, new data shows that bookings have now fallen by up to half.

Figures from the aviation data analyst ForwardKeys show that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused an immediate stall in flight bookings within Europe – as well as domestically within Russia.

The firm compared seat sales in the week following the invasion, 24 February to 2 March, with the previous seven days.

Civil aviation ended completely to, from and within Ukraine and Moldova as they closed their airspace, while Russia and Belarus were subject to flight bans and safety warnings.

Outside this region, the destinations worst affected were generally those closest to the conflict. Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

All saw a collapse in bookings of between 30 and 50 per cent.

Yesterday The Independent found that return air fares from the UK to cities such as Krakow, Bucharest and Riga, have fallen well below £50 – with a return from Luton airport to Palanga in Lithuania, close to the Latvian border, available for just £15 return.

The shock caused by Russia’s attack on its neighbour has hit flight sales almost everywhere else in Europe.

Olivier Ponti, vice-president for insights for ForwardKeys, said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made an immediate impact, stalling what had been a strong recovery in travel since early January.

“Transatlantic travel and western European destinations have been less badly affected than I feared – North Americans can tell the difference between war in Ukraine and war in Europe, and so far, it seems that travellers regard the rest of Europe as relatively safe.

“There is also a strong pent-up demand. However, these are early days in a global political and economic crisis; so, what happens to travel will certainly be affected by the progress of the war and the impact of sanctions.

“Over the coming weeks, I expect we will see inflation and possible fuel supply issues pulling back what would otherwise be a strong post-pandemic recovery, as Covid-19 travel restrictions are progressively lifted.”

The only exceptions to a picture of double-digit drops in demand are Belgium, Iceland and Serbia, which saw reductions of less than 10 per cent in bookings.

Serbia’s relatively strong performance compared with all its neighbours is a result of its new status as the main gateway between Russia and the rest of Europe. Air Serbia is operating three flights a day between its hub in Belgrade and Moscow’s main airport, Sheremetyevo.

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