The way home: Tatarstan residents going back home from Turkey, at times paying an arm and a leg

How Tatarstan residents are returning home from Turkish resorts: organised tourist groups have nothing to fear, while independent holiday-makers are offered two Aeroflot flights a week

An interruption in flights between Russia and Turkey led to an upsurge in tariffs on regular Aeroflot flights first. The airline became the Russian company transporting passengers from this destination. By 15 April evening, the price for a flight from Istanbul to Kazan jumped to 60-85,600 rubles. But on Saturday, 17 April, the official website of the airline offered flights for 27,335 rubles in late April and early May. Those Tatarstan who went to Turkey on their own, not on a tour, for business or pleasure have to buy tickets on their own. The Federal Air Transport Agency advises them not to wait for too long. While organised tourists are offered charter flights, which will stretch into another 10-12 days. Meanwhile, some Kazan citizens anyway decided not to rush to go home and hope to return later via Belarus.

To go back home

The road back home will cost Tatarstan travellers who went on holiday on Turkey’s seashore on a tour without paid flights or risked booking a flat on their own much money.

After it was announced that flights between Russia and Turkey were suspended, tariffs on regular flights on following days from Turkey almost doubled in price — from 16,000 in low-cost airlines to 85,000 rubles in Aeroflot, which was chosen as the Russian evacuation airline.

However, the schedule of flights from Turkey is changing every day, new airlines are joining it and booking slots. “There aren’t competitive recommendations but one — stay tuned for airports’ schedules,” the Federal Air Transport Agency advises.

Tickets from Istanbul to Kazan and Moscow are purchased very quickly. As Realnoe Vremya has been told in Kazan tour agencies whose tourists left the country without a flight, they had to purchase tickets from low-cost airlines on 18 April for from 16,000 per seat. However, no tickets left by 16 April evening to Pobeda and Nordwind’s flights from Istanbul to Kazan.

On 17 April, the official website of the airline offered tickets for 27,335 rubles on 23 April, 4 and 7 May, not for 85,000 rubles. Photo:

However, Aeroflot has cheapened. On 17 April, the official website of the airline offered tickets for 27,335 rubles on 23 April, 4 and 7 May, not for 85,000 rubles. The most comfortable option is a three-hour connection at Sheremetyevo. Economy Light tickets are the cheapest, they don’t include luggage. However, one can take 10-kilogramme cabin luggage (one seat). Economy Optimum costs 32,560 rubles, which includes a 23-kilogramme suitcase. Finally, Economy Maximum is two suitcases and costs 41,530 rubles. There will also be a flight on 27 April, but no economy class flights left. Alternatively, one can fly business class splashing out more than 100,000 rubles on a ticket.

Turkish Airlines transported passengers until 17 April

On Thursday, the second evacuation airline — Turkish Airlines — sold tickets on 16-17 April, but only to Moscow. The highest price was from 8 to 16,000 rubles depending on the class. The call centre of Turkish Airlines was overloaded as well as that of Aeroflot — Realnoe Vremya didn’t manage to reach out to either operator. The website of the Turkish airline doesn’t have flights to Russia in the foreseeable future anymore.

Meanwhile, tickets to Turkey are sold in many services. Moreover, on different days, even in May. The press service of the Federal Air Transport Service explained to Realnoe Vremya that people shouldn’t buy these tickets.

“Big airlines are performing evacuation charter flights according to tours that were purchased. Each of them has provided their own programme to bring tourists back home,” the press service explained. “The airline that transported them should return them. Moreover, people are given time to have a rest, 7-10 days, as a purchased tour envisages it.”

So the turn of organised tourists to the homeland will last for another 10 days. Realnoe Vremya has been told by Kazan tour agencies that there is no problem with the transportation of Kazan citizens, everybody will go home according to schedule. The press service of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism confirmed there aren’t complaints.

On Thursday, the second evacuation airline — Turkish Airlines — sold tickets on 16-17 April, but only to Moscow. Photo:

We should remind you that Russia has restricted regular and charter flights with Turkey since 15 April until 1 June 2021 to prevent the import of the coronavirus infection. Russian Vice Premier Tatiana Golikova said this at a briefing on 12 April. Russians who bought tours to Turkey are recommended to change the destination or dates, while those people who arrived on their own should leave the country as soon as possible. While Vice Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachyov urged the Russians who planned their holiday in Turkey to show patriotism and civic solidarity and consider a holiday in the country whose authorities claimed that Crimea was “annexed” impossible. He didn’t rule out that “a whine will start now like: ‘Sort it out yourself, my plans have collapsed.’”

In a word, the air border with Turkey has almost closed, just several Aeroflot flights from Istanbul to Moscow twice a week have left.

Somebody hopes for Belarus, while somebody is back urgently

Those who arrived in Turkey on their own are in a difficult situation. For instance, they went there to work remotely. They will have to fly back with Aeroflot. As 30-year-old programmer from Kazan Maria (not her real name) told Realnoe Vremya, she had booked a flat in Antalya in advance to work in April. On Thursday, she was shocked at Aeroflot’s evacuation tariffs.

“I had a return ticket with Airlines Fly on 29 April,” she said in a talk with Realnoe Vremya. “I bought it from Clicavia service for 4,700 rubles. After the announcement of the suspension of flights until 1 June, the seller and airline are providing contradictory information. A representative of Airlines Fly claims that such a flight wasn’t scheduled on this day, while Clicavia writes that there is no instruction from the provider of services, which means the money can’t be refunded and exchanged,” she complains.

Maria admits that uncertainty frightens her the most, this is why it is tough for her to take further steps. Meanwhile, in Antalya, she lives in comfortable conditions and pays for accommodation around 1,000 rubles per night. She isn’t afraid of the risk of infection because she is isolated, while infection outbreaks are in Istanbul, not on the seashore. According to her, her colleagues programmers decided to stay in Turkey until 1 June, while somebody has already returned a ticket understanding that they won’t be able to go to Turkey in the next months. In reality, they have a chance of going home anytime, but in a roundabout way — through Belarus and, for instance, Kazakhstan. In any case, we aren’t talking about total and mandatory evacuation but a temporary suspension of flights.

68-year-old Rashida Gazizova has been living in Belek since mid-March — her daughter bought a flat there and transported her mother with a relative so that they could bask in the sun. It was planned that grandchildren would join the grandmother in June, after their studies end. Mrs Gazizova was going to return by September. The women expected to live by the seashore during the summer. But when news about the cancellation of flights was announced, the plans changed:

“All relatives started to call me, everybody was concerned about how we would stay there and how we would come back if planes aren’t launched again. We were afraid too, we were alone in a foreign country... My daughter called me on Thursday and said she bought tickets and told us to pack our suitcases. Just in case we decided not to risk, so we have to return.”

It was rumoured that the Russian tour operator TUI was launching evacuation flights with low tariffs. Because not every Kazan family can spend 70,000 rubles to go home if a tour cost this amount of money. Far from it. “The seats in these flights will be designed only for our clients who purchased the full package,” the press service TUI Russia told us.

However, the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism doesn’t see there is a problem with travellers’ return. “Those who purchased real tours will be able to come back without additional payments. We haven’t received complaints about it,” the press service of the committee said. 60 tourists arrived in Kazan from Antalya on 17 April.

10,000 Kazan won’t go to Turkey on May holidays

The Kazan citizens who booked tours on May holidays have turned out in an uncertain situation. According to STEN tour agency Leonid Press, not so many Kazan citizens travelled in April because the main group of travellers to Turkish resorts was scheduled for early May.

According to Leonid Press, not so many Kazan citizens travelled in April because the main group of travellers to Turkish resorts was scheduled for early May. Photo: Maxim Platonov

“The majority of bookings were made for the May holidays. By our estimates, around 10,000 Kazan citizens planned to go on holiday to Turkey in May for 7-10 days. These tours were mostly created by large federal tour operators. Consequently, they will determine the way of paying a refund to tourists. They mainly mean that a trip to the same Turkey will be postponed. Nowadays there aren’t alternative destinations in such an amount. We have managed to send somebody to the Emirates, but it is a small group of tourists because the number of flights to the UAE is ten times smaller than it was declared to Turkey. And the prices are incomparable. Rooms in hotels of Crimea and Krasnodar Krai on the May holidays were sold a long time ago, while there aren’t any other accessible sea resorts.”

What did those who booked a tour do?

“They are concerned and wait for what will happen after 1 June,” representatives of Kazan’s tour agencies explain. “An equal substitute for a holiday in Turkey can’t be found now. Now it will be hard to find something in hotels of Crimea and Sochi.”

Federal tour operators are ready to transfer a tourist’s deposit to another destination.

“We will try to make sure that our tourists will return on the scheduled dates but we don’t rule out that in some cases we will have to change the dates of return flights,” the press service of TUI Russia said. “Our policy permits replacing failed tours to Turkey with a flight on 15 April and 1 June, for this purpose, a tourist should go to a place he purchased the tour in. We recommend postponing the tour or choosing alternative open destinations such as the UAE, Maldives, destinations across Russia. Money will be transferred to a new application if a new tour is booked.”

Meanwhile, Aeroflot joined a programme designed to develop domestic tourism. On 15 April, the airline announced the opening of a large-scale programme of direct flights from 13 Russian citizens in Black Sea regions (Anapa, Sochi, Simferopol) as well as in Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don. Flights circumventing Moscow will be performed from Kazan too, the website informs. The flights will be launched from 24 May 2021.

Meanwhile, Aeroflot joined a programme designed to develop domestic tourism. Photo: Maxim Platonov

Evacuation flights for 10,000 rubles?

By the end of the week, it became known that the taskforce of the Russian Travel Agency wants to make a proposal: to organise evacuation flights for a “reasonable and fixed price”. The agency sees that 10-12,000 rubles are a reasonable price. Indeed, it is quite a low price. Head of the taskforce Dmitry Davydenko told Izvestiya about it. They are to decided how to organise such flights early this week, so that interesting days full of information await us.

“Everybody has 10,000 rubles in the pocket. With such an approach, it will be possible to bring everybody back, while tourists will receive a refund for a cancelled return ticket. The taskforce will have a meeting on Monday or Tuesday, we will offer such an option,” Davydenko said.

He thinks that Russians can be brought back through third countries that still have flights from Russia. For instance, it is the same Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and even the Emirates can join. But making these attractive dreams public (a flight from Istanbul through Dubai for 10,000 rubles is a fantasy) Davydenko anyway acknowledged that it is necessary to act very fast. The holiday of the majority of people who are in Turkey now not on a tour will end approximately by the end of the week, and everybody has to somehow be home on time.

By Luiza Ignatyeva