Data shows destinations closest to the conflict have seen a 30% to 50% drop in bookings
The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused an immediate stall in flight bookings to Europe as well as domestically within Russia, new data reveals.
The outbreak of war saw Ukraine and Moldova close their air space, while Russia and Belarus were subjected to flight bans and safety warnings.
The European destinations worst affected were generally those closest to the conflict. Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia all saw a 30%-50% drop in bookings.
All other European countries, except for Belgium, Iceland, and Serbia – which saw single digit drops – suffered a decline in bookings of between 10% and 30%. Domestic flight bookings in Russia fell by 49%.
The results come from analysis by travel data firm ForwardKeys comparing flight bookings in the week following the invasion – 24 February to 2 March 2 – to the previous seven days.
Source market analysis shows that intra-European air traffic was worse affected than transatlantic travel. Flight bookings within Europe fell 23% against a 13% decline from the US.
The only European air corridor left open to Russia is via Serbia, which is now acting as a gateway. Seat capacity scheduled in the first week of March shows a 50% increase in available seats for flights from Russia to Serbia, compared to February 21 before full scale military operations began.
As many as 60% more flight tickets were issued for travel from Russia to other destinations via Serbia in the week immediately after the invasion than for the whole of January.
Serbia became a hub for onward travel to Cyprus, France, Switzerland, Italy and elsewhere, while the majority of transfers from Russia had previously gone onto Montenegro.
ForwardKeys insights vice president Olivier Ponti said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made an immediate impact, stalling what had been a strong recovery in travel since early January.
“What I find surprising is that transatlantic travel and western European destinations have been less badly affected than I feared – North Americans can tell the difference between war in Ukraine and war in Europe, and so far, it seems that travellers regard the rest of Europe as relatively safe.
“There is also a strong pent-up demand. What’s most notable is the speed with which Serbia has become the gateway for travel between Russia and Europe. However, these are early days in a global political and economic crisis; so, what happens to travel will certainly be affected by the progress of the war and the impact of sanctions.
“Over the coming weeks, I expect we will see inflation and possible fuel supply issues pulling back what would otherwise be a strong post-pandemic recovery, as Covid-19 travel restrictions are progressively lifted.”
Image courtesy of Flightradar24.com