The European Union and the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine — and now private travel companies are taking a stand. As Russian tankers and fighter planes attempt to take control of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, airlines, tour operators and cruise lines are shunning Russia in a collective show of condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
Rick Steves, a TV personality and travel consultant and operator of his eponymous European travel company, said his company would cancel all tours with stops in Russia. “When we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression. Therefore, as of today, we have canceled all 2022 tours that include a stop in Russia.”
“Of course, we will keep a close eye on unfolding events and monitor any travel impacts through the rest of Europe. But it is important to keep geographic realities in mind and remember that a war in Ukraine is as far from our European vacation dreams as a war in Guatemala would be from Texas or Florida,” he wrote on his blog, entitled “Comrades No More.” Other tour operators have taken similar steps.
“‘When we bring travelers to another country, we also bring their dollars — dollars that would support Putin’s aggression.’”
— Rick Steves, travel tour operator
Airlines are also responding to Russia’s aggression. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Friday that it’s preparing to close the country’s airspace to Russian airlines. On Thursday, the U.K. banned the Russian flag airline Aeroflot from landing there; on Friday, Russia banned British air carriers from crossing its airspace or landing at Russian airports.
In retaliation on Saturday, Russia’s federal air transport agency Rosaviation said. “Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation.” The Czech Republic and Bulgaria were among the countries to ban Russian airlines from their air space.
As the full-scale invasion continued Saturday, Ukraine had closed its airspace to civilian flights, while Russia also closed some of its own airspace due to the conflict. “The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels,” the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said on Friday.
Airlines were warned not to fly over Ukraine, or in Belarus or Russia within 100 nautical miles of Ukraine’s borders. “In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft,” it added. In 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Four men are standing trial in the Netherlands for the attack.
“‘The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights.’”
— The European Union Aviation Safety Agency
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Thursday canceled all calls at St. Petersburg, Russia for the rest of the year. “Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises. Together, the three lines had about 50 sailings on their schedules for the year that included stops in the Baltic port,” The Points Guy travel site reported. “Viking late Thursday canceled its entire summer season of ‘Kiev, Black Sea & Bucharest.’”
Several other major cruise lines said they were “monitoring” the situation. Atlas Ocean Voyages said it would skip the port in St. Petersburg this summer. “We have adjusted our voyages,” Alberto Aliberti, the company’s president, said. “Guests will enjoy these unique and rarely visited destinations and immersive shore excursions to take in the rich cultures and breathtaking vistas of the Baltic.”
Still, Steves encouraged people to keep traveling and seeing the world. “The tragic reality unfolding in Ukraine only reminds me how important it is for Americans to keep on traveling and to do so in a way that makes us better and more engaged citizens of our world. I’m flying to Europe next month for a 40-day trip through a dozen great cities from London to Athens — and I’m proud that thousands of my fellow travelers will experience the European trip of their dreams,” he added.