HAVANA, Sept. 18th Vladimir Putin may be bogged down in his war on Ukraine but some Russian citizens are doing just fine and planning to resume package tourism to Cuban resorts.The airlines had to draw new routes for the flights to begin in October to avoid European airspace since it is close to Russian aircraft.
Before Putin began his invasion of Ukraine, and while Covid-19 kept many other country’s citizens from venturing to the Island, Russian tourists became the fastest growing source of visitors landing at northern Cuban beach resorts. Then all flights were suspended when Europe closed down its airspace to Russian aircraft.
This also affected Cuban “mules” who would go to Moscow from Varadero to buy numerous products for illegal resale back on the Island.
The simpleflying.com website reported that Nordwind Airlines is the first to program a resumption of flights to Cuba, set for October, despite the ongoing sanctions imposed by the European Union.
Back in January 2022, before Russia went to war against Ukraine, there were 17 weekly flights to Cuba operated by four airlines (Aeroflot, Azur Air, Nordwind, and Royal Flight Airlines).
Simplifying recalls that these commercial services were quickly scrapped in February following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions by the European Union which forbade Russian aircraft and airlines to fly through the EU’s airspace.
Here come the Russian tourists
Nordwind plans to resume services to Varadero and Cayo Coco on October 1st. Pegas Touristik, the Russian tour operator owner of the carrier, expects to open up to four flights per week on the route Moscow-Varadero, and three flights per week to Cayo Coco, reports. Nordwind Airlines will use its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to operate these services, notes Simplifying.
Juan Carlos Escalona, Cuba’s Tourism counselor in Russia, said that the Caribbean country is ready to receive back Russian tourists, and he expects more tour operators and airlines to follow the example of Pegas Touristik and Nordwind Airlines.
Russian airlines used to go through the European Union airspace en route to destinations in Latin America (in January, there were 45 weekly flights from Russia to this region). Nonetheless, the sanctions have made it impossible for Russian carriers to employ the EU’s airspace for such destinations.
Nordwind will have to employ a different path to get to Cuba notes Simplifying. “We have an idea of what that will look like. Between August 5 and 11, Nordwind operated three flights between Moscow Vnukovo Airport (VKO) and Caracas Simon Bolivar International (CCS). The airline employed a Boeing 777-300ER, registration RA-73342, for these services.”
To operate these services, the crew flew north from Moscow into the Barents Sea, avoiding the airspace of countries such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Then it went west through the Norwegian Sea before going south between Greenland and Iceland and flying through the Atlantic Ocean without entering the Canadian and US airspaces.
The return flight from Caracas to Moscow followed almost the exact same path, except it now went east from Iceland instead of west. The average flight times for both flights were 13:00 and 12:10 hours, respectively.
Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) said that several Russian airlines plan to resume flights to Cuba in the short term. Russia’s TASS news agency reported, “The head of the Federal Air Transport Agency, Alexander Neradko, informed Cuban partners that in order to develop tourism between the two countries, several Russian airlines plan to resume flights to Cuba in the near future.”
Cuba is currently hard pressed to obtain foreign currency amid extreme shortages of food, medicine and daily blackouts due to broken down generating plants and a lack of fuel for backup gen sets. Galloping inflation has also taken a large bite out of the citizens’ buying power with their depressed peso incomes.