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How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Is Impacting Travel

SmarterTravel

No-fly zones, increased fuel costs, and cancellations—the Russian invasion of Ukraine is having a big impact on the travel industry, even for destinations outside of the two countries. 

If you’re planning a trip to Europe in the near future, here’s what you need to know.

How Air Travel Is Impacted

The 27 countries in the European Union (EU) have banned all Russian planes from their airspace. Additionally, many foreign airlines have suspended flights to/from Russia. Although Russian airlines will be the most affected by current events, the conflict has already changed flight routes for other carriers as well. 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently expanded the no-fly zone for U.S. carriers to include Ukraine and Belarus, as well as part of western Russia—which is a major route between Europe, North America, and Asia. This means flights will have to reroute, adding extra fuel cost and time to itineraries.

“Finnair, for example, which makes a good bit of money connecting Europe with Asia, has chosen to halt its Asia service for the moment, without a feasible route between Helsinki and Asia that doesn’t touch Russian airspace,” says Scott’s Cheap Flights’ Senior Product Operations Specialist Willis Orlando. “If Russian airspace closures continue or expand, the potential to impact travel between the US/Europe and Asia is enormous.”

Russia has currently banned air carriers from 36 countries from their airspace, which means the impact on air travel will be far-reaching.

Travel Costs Could Increase

The Russian invasion of Ukraine could cause a spike in airfare that could be long-lasting. The price of oil has already increased to $100 a barrel. According to Dan Bubb, Associate Professor in Residence at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, “Airlines hedge their costs on the price of fuel which is directly connected to the price of oil. Any substantial increase in the price of oil will raise the price of fuel.” Bubb adds, “If airlines have to avoid Ukraine and Russian airspace, the flight will take more time and the plane will use more fuel.” These additional costs are likely to be passed on to flyers via higher ticket prices. 

Should You Change Your Travel Plans to Europe?

Obviously, if you’ve booked a trip to Ukraine or Russia, you’ll want to cancel—assuming it hasn’t already been done for you. Most group tour companies and cruise lines have canceled or rerouted trips visiting those two countries. Viking Cruises, for example, has canceled all 2022 departures of their Kyiv, Black Sea and Bucharest itinerary. Likewise, Rick Steves’ tour company has canceled all Russian trips for the remainder of the year.

This doesn’t mean you’ll need to change your plans to other destinations in Europe. “Other than Ukraine, Russia, and possibly Belarus, I don’t foresee any safety issues pertaining to other destinations,” advises Bubb. If you’re planning a trip to a country that’s far from the conflict, there’s no reason to cancel or postpone at this time. Just be aware that you may see large-scale protests and demonstrations against Russia’s invasion across all of Europe as long as the conflict rages on. 

Also, keep in mind that bordering countries to Ukraine (including Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia) are seeing a huge influx of refugees, which could impact travel within those countries. You may wish to change your plans if you’re visiting a border area in the near future.

If you wish to donate to people affected by the crisis, here’s how you can help.

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