Thousands of Russians stranded in Thailand due to flight cancellations, sanctions

FILE PHOTO: Phuket International Airport - HKT

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says thousands of Russian holidaymakers are stranded in the kingdom as flight cancellations and sanctions over the war on Ukraine hit hard. According to Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya from the TAT, there are currently 3,100 Russian tourists stranded on Phuket, over 2,000 on Koh Samui, as well as Russian holidaymakers in Krabi, Phang Nga, and Bangkok.

International sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine are affecting Russian tourists, with many Russian carriers forced to cancel flights and global payment systems suspending their services. Bhummikitti Ruktaengam from the Phuket Tourist Association says Russian visitors on the island have been badly affected by Mastercard and Visa suspending operations in Russia.

“We have seen instances of difficulty in card payments by Russians in Phuket due to how Mastercard and Visa have suspended services in Russia.”

Bhummikitti says tourism officials may adopt the Russian electronic fund transfer system, Mir, as well as allowing tourists to use digital currencies. With Thailand’s tourism sector only just beginning to recover from the pandemic, Russians were among the largest group of holidaymakers until the crisis in Ukraine developed. Now, according to an AFP report, many Russian tourists find themselves stuck here.

Evgenia Gozorskaia, a psychologist who arrived from Russia on February 27 with her husband and children aged 7, 4, and 2, says the family was supposed to fly home on March 28, but their Aeroflot flight has been cancelled.

“We are very nervous because the children are very small, we don’t have enough money to live here. We want to go tomorrow to the airport, but I don’t know what the situation will be.”

Gozorskaia knows of some Russian holidaymakers who’ve managed to get new flights but says her family has so far not been able to get hold of anyone who can help.

“They say that they cannot do it and put the phone off.”

Russian flights are not banned in Thailand, with the Thai government adopting a neutral stance on the Ukraine invasion. However, Russian carrier Aeroflot has been forced to cancel flights as a result of international airspace restrictions. Tourists are now desperately seeking other routes home, including with other airlines travelling via the Middle East.


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Maya Taylor

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