Industry Players Feedback
3 June 2020
Russia’s airlines schedule a significant increase in flight numbers from June
Russia’s airlines are planning to considerably boost their flight schedules in June, despite the continuing presence of restrictions across the country’s territories during the Coronavirus pandemic. Some Russian airports are reporting a quadrupling of the number of flight plans, as airlines pin their hopes on the gradual reopening of local Black Sea holiday resorts area, whilst international travel is still not permitted. However, as with the unpredictable nature of the on-going pandemic, most of these flights may eventually be cancelled.
Aeroflot’s Moscow Sheremetyevo main airport noted that the number of flights scheduled for June exceed those of May by 295%.
Elsewhere in Russia, Simferopol Airport in Crimea also has an increase in flight plans, with the total of seat capacity of 936,000 seats, which is a substantial increase over that of the month of June last year when the airport had 690,200 passengers. In May, this year the seat load factor on flights to Simferopol did not exceed 33%, so it is possible that seat capacity may not sell to full capacity in June. In April, Simferopol handled only 29,980 passengers with a further 16,580 in the first 18 days of May.
Moscow’s smallest airport, Vnukovo is anticipating a significant increase in passenger traffic numbers in June, as carriers Utair, Azimuth Airlines, Yakutiya Airlines and RusLine have all announced a partial resumption of their flight programmes. More significantly, Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda is also preparing to re-launch operations on June 1 after a full two-month grounding. Nevertheless, Vnukovo points out that the number of flight projections is still far short of those in June 2019. The airport is expecting a 75% approximate decrease in traffic to roughly 600,000 passengers compared to June last year. In the April and May period the traffic total through Vnukovo was just 5% of that of the same months one year ago.
Aeroflot published new service procedures
Aeroflot has introduced changes to its service procedures. These changes are being temporary introduced to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are in line with the government sanitary regulations and the guidelines of the Federal Air Transport Agency and consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor.
Passengers will be required to board the plane wearing facemasks and gloves and which must be worn for the duration of the flight. Passengers must replace masks every three hours while aboard. If needed, cabin crew will provide facemasks. While boarding and disembarking the plane, passengers must observe recommended social distancing of 1.5-2 meters. Passengers will have their temperature checked as part of the boarding process. Passengers with a temperature over 37 degrees Celsius will not be permitted to board. Prior to boarding, passengers will be offered hand sanitizer. Throughout the flight, passengers must store their outerwear in overhead bins.
Passengers must keep their seatbelts fastened during the entire flight and can leave their seats only in order to use lavatories. Changes have been made to the in-flight meal service. Food will be offered either in individually wrapped packages, after onboard heating.
Cold drinks will be offered individually wrapped. Passengers can bring their own food and drinks, only in unopened sealed packaging. Aeroflot’s ground crew and cabin crew have undergone additional training, so they can assist any passenger which might have respiratory problems during a flight. Aeroflot’s aircraft are equipped with antiseptic wipes, disinfectant sprays, gloves and masks. The cabin crew will be required to wear gloves and masks. The measures outlined above have been temporarily introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will be gradually eased with eventual return to regular in-flight procedures.
Tour operators feedback
Currently, tour operators mainly re-book previously booked trips, either postponing them to July-September or replacing them with New Year skiing tours. They observed an increase in interest for serviced apartments and smaller boutique hotels, particularly from the higher-end segment customers. Customers make preliminary bookings only under the condition to pre-pay some proportion in September and the rest not earlier than two weeks before arrival. Switzerland is perceived the safest ski destination, and the one with the best level of medical services.
As for the summer, the requests start mainly from mid-July, most are for trips around Russia. Crimea, Sochi, and Kaliningrad (Russian part of Baltic sea) are the main destinations requested. The best properties in Sochi and Crimea are getting fully booked for August, and the prices went up dramatically. Some 5* hotels in Crimea became 6-7 times more expensive than last year.
The general feeling is that people are waiting for more information on when the borders will open and what will be the safety regulations; the majority still want to go abroad with trust that Europe will follow the necessary safety regulations and provide safe and high-quality service.
Belarusian tour operators are on standby as there is no official information about flights resumption, the national carrier Belavia keeps cancelling flights. Tours are cancelled or postponed for later dates, but no new requests are received. Since Belarus did not officially introduce a quarantine period, there are concerns that Belarussians might not be allowed to enter most European countries.
Ukrainian travel companies report that after the quarantine measures are fully lifted, the first destinations to recover will be Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, Montenegro, and Croatia. Long-haul destinations such as Maldives, Cuba, Thailand are expected to recover closer to the winter holidays. The resumption of international flights is announced for June 15, however, as the quarantine is extended to June 22, it is unlikely to happen. Most travellers are cautious about booking summer trips and prefer to wait for an official statement on the border opening and then to proceed with their holiday reservations.
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