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Russia Takes Gradual Steps To Resume International Flights Amid Pandemic

By Vusala Abbasova November 5, 2020

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The airports of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don were the first to restore international traffic.

Russia is pushing ahead with plans to gradually resume international air travel after coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of the country's borders earlier this year.

Under the decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in mid-October, Russia will restart regular passenger air service with Serbia, Cuba and Japan.

The decision to resume air traffic between Russia and Japan on a reciprocal basis came into force on November 1. According to RBC, there will be two flights to the capital of Japan from Moscow and one from the capital of Primorsky Krai. National flag carrier and the largest airline in Russia, PJSC Aeroflot – Russian Airlines, commonly known as Aeroflot, will operate the first flight to Japan's capital Tokyo on November 5. Moscow-Tokyo flights will resume once a week during the first stage, then twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays, while flights from Tokyo to Moscow will operate on Saturdays and Sundays.

Along with Japan, the decree envisages the resumption of passenger air service with Serbia and Cuba. Flights from Moscow to Belgrade is planned twice a week. Also, planes will fly twice from Moscow to Cayo Coco, an island in central Cuba, and Santa Clara, a city in central Cuba.

In mid-March, as the novel coronavirus bloomed into a pandemic around the world, the world's largest country sealed off its borders for foreigners in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, only allowing special flights evacuating Russians from abroad. As a result of the country's program to repatriate Russian nationals, over 92,000 Russians from over 70 countries were brought back home since global coronavirus restrictions were introduced.

Although Russia has the world’s fourth-highest number of Covid-19 cases with more than 1.7 million confirmed cases, the country has begun the process of selectively re-opening its borders with a range of countries since August. The number of flights on international routes will be operated based on the epidemiological situation, morbidity rates and the principles of reciprocity.

The airports of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don were the first to restore international traffic. Kazan, Kaliningrad and Novosibirsk were added to the list since August 20. As of mid-October the list of countries whose citizens could travel as tourists to Russia included just 14 states, including Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, the Maldives, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Aeroflot Group is Russia's largest airline group that ranks among the top 20 globally by passenger numbers. In 2019, the Group had 41.3% market share in Russia and carried more than 60.7 million passengers, of whom 37.2 million flew with Aeroflot – Russian Airlines, the Group's flagship premium carrier.

In a further move to support Russia's tourism sector, authorities in the country are planning to introduce an electronic visa next year that will facilitate the entry of foreign tourists from 53 countries. The single-entry tourist visas, allowing visitors to stay for a maximum of 16 days, will be valid for 60 days from the date of issuance.