Ready, steady, fly?

Air communication with Turkey resumes from 22 June. Tatarstan tour agencies hope 4-5 flights will daily fly to the Turkish seashore

Ready, steady, fly?
Photo: Maxim Platonov

Turkey is finally open for Russian tourists again. The federal anti-coronavirus taskforce decided to resume air flights with this country from 22 June on Friday evening. The opening of flights at the height of the tourist season turned out a surprise for most Tatarstan tourism company that had already “buried” their hopes as early as 1 June. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s review what will happen to the tours booked in April, how Turkey is doing now and how many flights tour operators hope to fill from Kazan.

Out of the blue

The news about the opening of Turkey suddenly inspired representatives of the Tatarstan tourism industry. To be honest, a day earlier, they had expected “nothing good” from the season. So the information on Friday evening about the resumption of air flights between Russia and Turkey as well as flights to another eight countries (Cyprus, Bulgaria, the USA, Belgium Jordan, Ireland, Italy and North Macedonia) became a glimmer of hope. As the taskforce said, it is permitted to resume both regular and charter flights.

“This time, the federal authorities worked nicely: they had promised to announce the results and they did it,” says head of STEN tourist company Leonid Press. “They had promised to warn about the opening of borders beforehand, here you’re, we also had several days to get ready.”

As Press says, the tourism industry didn’t expect the borders to open earlier than on 1-5 July, and it turned out to be even better — the taskforce provided with 10 days to prepare. And large tour operators started to sell tours on Friday because “they have everything prepared”. Our interlocutor assumes that the price for these tours won’t change significantly: it will stay at April’s level, perhaps it will even go down because of a stronger euro against the dollar.

“Now there are two flights a week from Russia to Turkey, from Moscow to Istanbul. One can fly in a roundabout way, via Baku or Belarus. But it is expensive, especially if children travel with you,” says Leonid Press. “The price for a direct flight from Moscow is dynamic, but the lowest price is 50,000 rubles. I think all airlines will head there now when Turkey opened. 3-4 flights will be performed daily from Kazan alone. I think tickets shouldn’t become as expensive as they are now.”

A short inspection visit of a delegation of specialists from the Russian consumer rights protection watchdog and Russian Agency for Tourism to Antalya preceded the taskforce’s sensational decision. They had been evaluating the epidemiological situation at Turkish resorts and the possibility of lifting restrictions on flights to the republic for two days. As a result, they decided to resume air communication. According to the commission, the mask regime is on, both masks and sanitisers are available, there is control over the compliance with the measures.

It isn’t harder to get infected in Turkey than in Russia

According to the WHO’s data, 5,757 new COVID-19 cases were registered in Turkey as of 18 June, 59 people died. For comparison, 17,262 people got infected on 18 June, 453 patients died. Germany and then France recently cancelled trips to Turkey.

Realnoe Vremya talked with Kazan programmer Maria Galeyeva who went to Antalya in the spring and works from there. She says that vaccination among the local population is actively carried out.

Antalya’s seashore started to be gradually filled by tourists from Ukraine and Belarus. Photo:

“There are specific terms for citizens of a certain age: the older generation, health workers, teachers will be vaccinated free first. Tourists aren’t included in public vaccinations. They won’t be administered a vaccine even for money. I have tried but I have been denied,” she told us. “But I have a high anti-bodies level, perhaps this is why I didn’t fall ill.

As our interlocutor explains, after the announcement of a lockdown on 15 April, Antalya was dead for three weeks: neither restaurants nor beaches, shopping malls operated. The state paid subsidies for everybody who lost a job during this period. People might go outside but only via SMS. Groceries with basic products were open. So the Turkish lockdown didn’t absolutely differ from the one in Russia last spring.

The restrictions were cancelled on 17 May. Antalya’s seashore started to be gradually filled by tourists from Ukraine and Belarus. However, prices immediately grew. It became 20% more expensive to eat in a cafe compared to the pre-quarantine times. However, prices for vegetables and meat didn’t change in the market. So the resort city now lives as usual — only with masks on and at the moment without noisy crowds of Russian tourists.

One will have to pay extra for June tours

What will happen to the tours booked in April that were cancelled when air flights were suspended?

“Those who booked tours in April will go on holiday in October because the prices comparable with April will open only in October,” says Ramil Miftakhov, president of the Association of Tour Agencies and Tour Operators of Tatarstan. “If tourists want to fly earlier, they will have to pay extra for the high season. How much? Nobody knows because prices are still unknown. The price of holiday in spring is much lower than in high season.”

A flight in a package will be €300-350. Prices for Turkish resorts will stay at a level of August-September 2020 but will likely go up.

Rustem Tarzimanov, head of Salavat Bureau of Tourist Services finds it is hard now to forecast prices for Turkish resorts and further actions of the taskforce because, in his opinion, they are illogical. For instance, he complains that Egypt is still closed (to be more precise, it is open but there are only several flights a week to Cairo, and it takes several hours to get to the seashore).

“Do you know for how long they have been talking about Egypt? For nearly 6 years! It seems that both countries’ presidents met, shook their hands, carried out an inspection, while the process doesn’t progress,” Rustem Tarzimanov is indignant.

Indeed, representatives of the Russian side completed safety inspection at Egyptian airports. “The aviation safety reinforcement measures at airports taken by the Egypt side since 2015 allowed considerably improving their protection,” said head of the Russian Agency for Air Transport Alexander Neradko. “The decision on a resumption of flights to these cities will be made after recommendations of the Russian side to reinforce air safety measures are followed and the procedures envisaged by Russian-Egypt agreements on cooperation in civil aviation safety are carried out.”

By Luiza Ignatyeva