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Will the conflict in Ukraine impact travel plans?

Here’s all you need to know about how the conflict in Ukraine has redrawn the travel map, from international flight routes to regional travel.

Destinations bordering Russia and Ukraine are seeing some consumer uncertainty about the wider impact of the conflict in Eastern Europe.

Photograph by Getty Images
Published 24 Apr 2022, 06:07 BST

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, before closing its own air space to numerous countries in Europe and beyond, the travel map has shifted. Flight routes have been modified with fares increasing as a result, and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is advising against all travel to much of the region. This has led to flight cancellations, and tour operators are cutting trips for 2022. Here’s what you need to know.

Which countries are now out of bounds?

The FCDO currently advises against all travel to Russia. Ukraine is also on the no-go list: travel there is not advised under any circumstances, and all British citizens in Ukraine are advised to leave the country if they judge it safe to do so. There is also an advisory in place against travel to Belarus and the Transnistria region in Moldova. Most travel insurance policies will no longer be valid for these countries. Contact your tour operator or insurer if you have any specific concerns about travel to or near the region and check the FCDO website before making plans.

What impact has the conflict had on air travel?

Russia has banned UK airlines from entering its airspace, which means you are due a refund from your airline if you had planned a trip to the country in the coming weeks or months. The same goes for other countries in the region ruled out by the FCDO. The closure of Russian airspace and the Civil Aviation Authority’s instructions to avoid Ukrainian air space has affected flight times from the UK to the Far East. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are warning of increased journey times to destinations such as India, Thailand and Singapore. These re-routings, along with the rise in jet fuel prices, are expected to cause an increase in air fares, although some carriers, including Ryanair and EasyJet, have hedged fuel supplies or locked-in prices for the summer.

The FCDO currently advises against all travel to Russia and Ukraine. There is also an advisory in place against travel to Belarus and the Transnistria region in Moldova.

Photograph by Getty Images

How have tour operators responded?

Costs on the ground may also go up in countries heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas imports. Travel industry regulations allow tour operators to pass on increases of up to 8% before consumers are entitled to cancel a trip without incurring a penalty. However, operators must cancel upcoming trips to areas that the FCDO advises against travel to and issue a refund or offer a rebooking. Ports including St Peterburg and Kiev are on many cruise itineraries, but operators such as Atlas Ocean Voyages and Princess Cruises are now changing routings to avoid Russian and Ukrainian destinations. Viking Cruises, meanwhile, is one of the firms opting to cancel some 2022 departures, including sailings from Kiev and Bucharest. Explore Worldwide, the leading provider of tours to Chernobyl, has cancelled all trips to Russia and Ukraine. “We are assisting our affected operating partners,” says the company’s managing director, Michael Edwards. “We have made a company donation and our staff are fundraising. We’re pleased to note that our resilient customers are still booking adventures elsewhere across the world.”

Are travellers cancelling trips to the region?

Destinations bordering Russia and Ukraine are seeing some consumer uncertainty about the wider impact of the conflict in Eastern Europe. Of the popular travel destinations bordering Ukraine to the west — Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland — the latter is currently receiving a significant number of refugees from Ukraine, with city break favourite Krakow only about 150 miles from the border. Bookings to Baltic destinations have slowed, according to specialist tour operator Regent Holidays, while a recent survey by travel agency MMGYGlobal found that the war in Ukraine is now twice as likely to impact Americans' plans to visit Europe than Covid-19.

However, other operators aren’t necessarily seeing this pattern. Undiscovered Destinations was due to run its popular ‘Journey Through Ukraine’ and ‘Echoes of the Cold War’ tours in Ukraine for 2022. “Obviously we’ve had to cancel them and have suspended all operations in Russia and Belarus until further notice,” says the company’s head of business development, Aled Evans. “Our clients have been very understanding, and all have rebooked; some have transferred to other Eastern European tours, in Bulgaria and Romania, others to our Baltic tours in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. We had expected that these areas would see a drop in interest but, in fact, the opposite has happened.”

What if I want to cancel my trip to a country that the FCDO hasn’t ruled out?

Unless the FCDO advises against travel to the region, you won’t be refunded for cancelling your trip. Russia has threatened “military consequences” if nearby countries such as Sweden and Finland join NATO, but there are currently no FCDO travel advisories in place for this region. If you’re worried about your destination suddenly making an appearance on the FCDO no-go list, the best way to protect your booking is by arranging travel via an ATOL-protected package sold by a reputable operator.

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