Following two years of regular disruption in his industry, travel agent Andrey Zakharenko has remained sharp when it comes to keeping abreast of the daily updates for where his clients can and cannot travel to.
For Zakharenko, an expert on Russian travel, these travel updates are now changing by the minute since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“It’s very dynamic,” he told SFGATE. “I had a client who was visiting family in Russia and her flight out of Moscow got canceled. I had to put her on another carrier [direct to New York] and when that plane was backing up on the tarmac, they announced that they closed the airspace over Sweden. Her plane took off and she successfully got home but it came down to the wire.”
In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that he was ordering a ban on Russian planes entering U.S. airspace, joining a consortium of countries in their effort to penalize Russia for the invasion.
As of Friday, 33 nations, including all 27 E.U. countries as well as Albania, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, the U.K. and now the U.S., have imposed the ban. The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Saturday telling citizens not to travel to Russia and advising those in Russia to leave “immediately.”
However, Americans are not barred from entering Russia. Natasha Vinogradov, with the passport and visa commercial expediting firm Russian Agency, said that as of now, there are no restrictions for travel to Russia for American citizens. A travel ban, triggered by COVID-19, was lifted in July 2021 and the country has remained accessible.
“Honestly, I don’t see any changes as of now,” she told SFGATE. “People are continuing to apply for Russian visas. Most of them are relatives of Russian citizens.”
Two major airlines offer direct flights from U.S. cities to Moscow. Aeroflot, a Russian national airline and the largest in the country, flies out regularly from Los Angeles, Washington, New York and Miami.
On March 5, Aeroflot announced that it was temporarily suspending all international flights beginning on Tuesday, March 8. In their statement , the company said that this was "due to new additional circumstances impeding the operation of flights." There is one exception to the ban and the airline is expected to continue offering flights to Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Doug Yakel, spokesperson for SFO, said the airport doesn’t have any flights to and from Russia but added that the “United SFO-Delhi flight overflies Russia, so they’ve canceled that flight for the coming days due to the airspace restrictions.”
This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.