COVID19: Russia plans to lift ban on chartered flights

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Russia will gradually lift flight restrictions as their epidemiological data improves, Deputy Transport Minister Dmitry Zverev told Cypriot officials on Friday.

Zverev told his Cypriot counterpart Yiannis Karousos and Deputy Minister of Tourism Savvas Perdios during a teleconference on Friday, that there could be a positive decision on Russia-Cyprus flights as early as next week.

According to a transport ministry announcement, the meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere, as both sides were willing to resolve issues, including lifting a ban on chartered flights to Cyprus.

Perdios had recently flown to Moscow on to convince local authorities to include Cyprus on their green lists, apparently with no luck at the time.

The Cypriot deputy tourism minister had briefed the Russian government on the island’s improved Covid-19 data and initiated talks on the restart of chartered flights, without receiving an answer at the time.

On his return, Perdios had told media that lifting restrictions on flights was put off as a new wave of coronavirus infections had hit Russia, while they fell behind on their vaccination rollout.

“Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told us that their vaccination has slowed down, and they now estimate that they will have 60% of their population vaccinated by September,” Perdios had said.

It made the Russian government hesitant to allow people to leave the country, explained Perdios.

“That is why chartered flights are not allowed”.

No chartered flights from Russia were conducted this year, with only scheduled flights carried out.


Plans for 500 flights

Perdios had said Russian tour operators were privately planning to carry out about 500 chartered flights to Cyprus.

At Friday’s meeting, the Russian side seemed positive to allow vaccinated Russians to travel to the island as Zverev thanked Cyprus for including the Russian Sputnik-V jab on the list of accepted vaccines against the coronavirus, meaning travellers need not undergo a PCR test or self-isolate here.

The Russian deputy minister expressed the hope that flights to and from Cyprus will return to ‘normal levels’, according to the announcement.

Russia is Cyprus’ second largest tourism market accounting for 19.7% of the 3.97 million tourists arriving in 2019.

Cyprus, reopened to the Russian market on April 1, has already received vaccinated Russian tourists.

In May, Russians made up for more than half of 57,320 tourist arrivals or 57% of the total.

However, the largest chunk of the tourist flow from Russia arrives on chartered flights.

During the teleconference, Karousos underlined that Cyprus’ epidemiological situation fully meets the criteria set by the Russian federation.

Perdios said that Cyprus has done its part and the tourist industry is ready to welcome Russian tourists back to the island.

The two sides agreed to set up a technocratic team to discuss the matter.