Aeroflot resumes Moscow-Phuket flights

31st Jul 2022

Relaxing at Airport

Aeroflot plans to resume their flight service between Russia and Phuket after suspending it due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Russian airline will launch daily flights from Moscow to Phuket on October 30, allowing Russians to escape the winter in the tropics.

Aeroflot and other Russian airlines cancelled their foreign travel services earlier this year, and flights from Russia to Phuket have been banned since March. Prior to COVID-19, Russian tourists were usually a key demographic in Phuket, and in 2022, officials hoped to see one million Russian visitors.

However, as of July 26, just 76,739 Russian tourists have visited Thailand so far this year. The bulk of these visitors came within the first three months of the year, before the European Union placed aviation penalties on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) argues that there is a high desire for tourists to visit the Kingdom, saying the only issue is access: "In interactions with travel companies specialising in this industry, they have expressed confidence in Thailand's demand. The only issue is the absence of connection. If Aeroflot is able to restart direct flights as scheduled, and other carriers follow suit in the coming months, we may still predict a surge of visitors in the fourth quarter."

Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia X were keen to fill the hole created by the suspension of flights by Russian carriers, but were unable to due to European sanctions. Due to the restrictions, insurers would not provide coverage for flights to Russia, and they would be unable to receive replacement parts, maintenance work, or technical assistance.

Now, the European Union has created an exemption for the International Civil Aviation Organization that will permit maintenance, repairs, and other support services beginning on July 27. The TAT is presently processing a comprehensive understanding of this latest judgement and how it may permit airlines to resume operations to and from Russia.

The potential for Russians to return to Thailand and Phuket might be a godsend for the ailing tourist sector, which saw 3.12 million visitors arrive in Thailand from the beginning of this year through July 26, which is slightly below the average monthly numbers prior to the epidemic. According to the Association of Thai Travel Agents, 10% of their 1,600 members have been able to restart their operations. The association are preparing a meeting this weekend with more than 70 hotels in Phuket and 170 tour operators to support the sector.

Many businesses are shifting their focus away from Chinese and Russian tourists, who have been unable to travel, and toward Indian and Malaysian visitors, of whom over 380 thousand have arrived this year.

However, with the reopening of the Aeroflot service, tourism officials still expect to attract as many as one million Russian visitors to Phuket in the second half of this year.