After the western nations closed their air space to Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine, Türkiye has become the main gateway for Russian travelers and now Moscow wants more flights between the two countries.
Turkish airline companies, mainly the flag carrier THY, currently have 85 flights a day between Türkiye and Russia. Russia now demands that the number of daily flights increase to 100 at the end of August.
There are two groups of Russian travelers flying to Türkiye: Tourists and transit passengers.
Holidaymakers go to the popular Turkish resorts such as Antalya on the Mediterranean coast and the district of Bodrum in the western province of Muğla.
Some Russians, meanwhile, use Türkiye as a transit route to travel to third countries. The latter group of travelers mostly fly to Istanbul Airport to take another flight on the same day of arrival for another foreign destination.
The sanctions have not only changed the way Russians travel but also affected the cost of travel.
A plane ticket from St. Petersburg to Istanbul costs as much as the ticket for an Istanbul-New York flight.
Those who have stopover flights rent apartments in Istanbul to avoid higher travel costs. Those Russians chose to stay in the city for a couple of days before departing for their final destinations.
For instance, a same day flight from Moscow to Rome via Istanbul costs some $1,300 but if they spend one or two days in Istanbul, they save up to $200 or $300.
Russian transit passengers include people who vacation in Europe and those fleeing their countries; they buy a one-way ticket.
Between March and early July, Russians had problems buying tickets for Turkish Airline flights since they could not use their credit cards and Türkiye’s flag carrier could not process transactions made with Russia’s MIR card. Russians had to make the payments in cash.
But this problem was resolved at the start of July and Russians are now able to buy tickets to Turkish destinations but also to destinations in third countries.
The United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Egypt, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan also offer a gateway for Russians. But only 15 percent of Russians use those routes while 85 percent travel to other countries via Türkiye.
Vnukovo Airport in Moscow is always packed with passengers around the clock traveling to Türkiye. The busiest hours at the airport are between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sometimes planes depart for Türkiye every five minutes.
Hurriyet Daily News