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  • Writer's picturePaul Saupe

International Flights into Russia Amidst Western Sanctions

Updated: May 15, 2023

Using VesselsValue’s aircraft activity data, we have been delving into the routes and countries that have continued to operate international flights into Russia between 1st and 17th March 2022, as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Flights operating into Russia by Country. Data from 1st to 17th March 2022.

Over the last 17 days, we saw that most routes into Russia have been from the United Arab Emirates, with Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) being the most heavily serviced route. The most popular airframe between DXB and VKO between 1st and 17th March 2022 was the 737-800, performing 54 out of the 73 flights. Running a very close second are services from Turkey.


Figure 2 below shows the countries operating international flights into Russia from 1st March to 17th March 2021.

Figure 2: Flights operating into Russia by Country. Data from 1st to 17th March 2021.

Looking back on the same period in 2021, Turkey occupied the top spot by a wide margin, followed by Germany and Armenia. Turkish Airlines and Pobeda were the only operators using the route IST to VKO between 1st and 17th March 2021, operating 101 flights between them, whereas during the same period in 2022 the route saw 90 flights, with service from Russian carriers Aeroflot and Pobeda, both with Boeing 737-800s, alongside Turkish Airlines. However, Pobeda then dropped the route on the 6th March 2022 followed by Aeroflot who dropped the same route on the 7th March 2022, in response to the Russian authorities’ advice to cease flying aircraft outside Russia.


Comparing the two time periods, we can see that there has been a sharp increase in services from the United Arab Emirates, from 57 flights between March 1st to 17th 2021 to 237 flights between March 1st to 17th 2022. These extra flights have been added by 9 additional airlines with Fly Dubai leading the way in March 2022 using Boeing 737-800’s, and the most popular route between the two countries so far in March 2022 being Dubai International Airport to Vnukovo International Airport.


The cessation of flights from most European countries is clearly a direct consequence of the closure of their airspace to Russian aircraft, and then Russia’s response to do the same to European aircraft in return. Serbia stands out as a point of interest, given its location in the middle of the European Union (and NATO) territory. The most popular route between Serbia and Russia is Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) to Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO). During this time period in 2021, the route was serviced by Aeroflot, Air Serbia and Nordwind Airlines. Following the cessation of Aeroflot’s and Nordwind Airlines’ international services, this route is currently being operated by Air Serbia and Tame Ecuador using A319-100’s, A320-200 and an A330-200.


We also tracked one flight from the United States into Russia on the 7th March 2022, keeping in mind the restriction of Russian aircraft entering or leaving US airspace which came into force on the 1st March. Interestingly, this particular flight was exempt from the restriction as it was an IL-96 aircraft (RA-96019) that was owned by the Russian government. News sources indicate that the aircraft was returning a number of Russian diplomats, whom the United States expelled from their posts at the United Nations in New York on the 28th February, citing security concerns.


Figure 3 below shows the route taken by aircraft (RA-96019) on its return flight from JFK to VKO on the 7th March 2022.

Figure 3: Route of Russian government owned aircraft from JFK to VKO, 7th March 2022.

The return flight took a total of 9 hours, departing John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) at 00:32. As the aircraft was subject to airspace restrictions over Canada, the UK and EU, it avoided these areas and landed at Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) at 10:32 after travelling 8,779 km. For comparison, a similar commercial routing for Aeroflot Flight SU103 on 15th August 2021 travelled 7,584 km, with a flight time of 8 hours and 13 minutes on a more direct routing.


It is clear that Western sanctions have significantly changed flight connectivity and routing patterns into and out of Russia. It is also clear that connectivity to Russia has not been choked off completely, with Turkey and now the United Arab Emirates acting as the main global gateways. The reciprocal closure of airspace has also disrupted both Russian and non Russian traffic flows, adding significant travel time and fuel burn to affected flights. At VesselsValue we track this activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and will continue to provide updates as the situation develops.


VesselsValue data as of March 2022.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and not to provide advice or guidance in relation to particular circumstances. Readers should not make decisions in reliance on any statement or opinion contained in this blog.

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