Russian airline Aeroflot resuming flights from Moscow to Phuket

PHOTO: Russian carrier Aeroflot will return to Phuket October 30. (via Flickr/Daniel Hobbs)

After halting flights due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Aeroflot is now planning on relaunching service from Russia to Phuket. The Russian airline will start its daily flight service from Moscow to Phuket on October 30, to shepherd Russians to the tropics to escape the cold of winter.

Earlier this year, Aeroflot was joined with other Russian airlines in cancelling their international flight schedules, and flights from Russia to Phuket have been suspended since March. Before Covid-19, Russian tourists have traditionally been a major demographic in Phuket, and authorities were hoping to see one million travellers from Russia in 2022.

But so far, only 76,739 Russian tourists have come to Thailand this year, as of July 26, the majority of whom travelled within the first three months of the year, before the European Union imposed aviation sanctions on Russia when they invaded Ukraine.

The governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) insists that there is heavy demand for travellers to come to the Kingdom, it’s just a matter of being able to get here.

“In discussions with tour operators focusing on this market, they are confident about the demand to Thailand. The only problem is the lack of connectivity. If Aeroflot can resume direct services as planned, while more airlines could follow in the next few months, we can still anticipate an influx of tourists in the final quarter.”

Thai Airways and Thai AirAsia X were eager to step in and fill the void left by the Russian airlines suspending flights, though were unable to do so because of the European sanctions. Insurers wouldn’t provide coverage for flights to Russia, and obtaining spare parts, maintenance work, or technical help would be impossible due to bans from the sanctions.

Now the European Union has carved out an exception for the International Civil Aviation Organisation which will allow maintenance, repairs, and other support services as of July 27. The TAT is still processing a full understanding of this new decision, and how it could allow airlines to operate to and from Russia again.

The possibility for Russians to return to Thailand and Phuket could be a boon to the struggling tourism industry which counted 3.12 million people arriving in Thailand from the start of this year through July 26, slightly below the average monthly arrivals before the pandemic. The Association of Thai Travel Agents reported that only 10% of their 1,600 members have been able to relaunch their businesses and are planning a meetup this weekend between more than 70 hotels in Phuket and 170 tour operators to try to boost the industry.

400 travel companies remain closed because they cater to the Chinese market that has been unable to travel here, and many businesses are shifting from Chinese and Russian focus to travellers from India, where over 380,000 tourists have come this year, and Malaysia which has sent another 322,000 travellers.

But with the relaunch of the Aeroflot flight, tourism authorities still hope to bring as close to one million Russian tourists as possible to Phuket in the latter half of this year.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.