Aeroflot Flying Passengers To U.S. And Europe Despite Russia’s COVID Travel Ban

Aeroflot has been circumventing the Russian government’s ban on international passenger flights, according to media reports, by selling tickets to passengers on flights officially labeled as cargo-only.

Russia currently has the third-most officially confirmed cases of COVID-19, behind the United States and Brazil. They closed their borders in March, with a stated attempt to limit the spread of the virus. Certainly keeping people from leaving doesn’t do that, although those traveling abroad may want or need to come back (and repatriation flights have been permitted). With more cases per capita in Russia than in most of the world, though, bringing people in from abroad wouldn’t materially affect the rate of virus spread they face.

Currently the country’s borders are expected to open to flights August 1, and Aeroflot is publicly selling tickets for travel beginning on this date, although the flight ban could be pushed out further. The rate of new cases being reported is only about 25% off of a high reported in mid-May.

According to employees of three airlines, including Aeroflot itself, the company has been bypassing the ban by operating passenger flights as cargo.

“Aeroflot has been operating flights to New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Seoul and Tel Aviv since at least early June. These flights are officially registered as cargo, but tickets are sold with permission from Russian Federal Air Transport Agency,” Vedomosti cited two Aeroflot representatives.

It is noted that these exclusive flights are not publicized and passengers learn about ticket sales through the grapevine.

The U.S. continues to allow passenger arrivals from Russia, where virus spread is rampant, while officially banning non-residents who have recently traveled to Europe, China, or Brazil. Continued U.S. bans on travel from Europe and China make absolutely no sense.

Majority government-owned Aeroflot has long played a central role in Russian’s clandestine services and tickets have apparently been “sold with permission from Russian Federal Air Transport Agency.”

Aeroflot ad from 1970

The journalists in Russia who reported on these passenger flights could be risking their Aeroflot Bonus elite status as the airline has been reported to revoke status from those critical of the airline.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Continued U.S. bans on travel from Europe and China make absolutely no sense.“.

    What makes absolutely no sense is allowing any international flights into the US until the US has control over the situation. Your suggestion is to open it back up so people can come here, get infected and then take it back to their own countries to re-ignite the spread overseas.

    I get it that no one wants to be travel restricted, but your suggestion is extremely short sighted as you are clearly viewing this from only one angle.

    Just say you don’t agree that Trump does not have a travel ban on Russia and be done with it. I find it odd that they are not restricted as well. Or leave politics completely out. But your suggestion about opening up international travel when we do not have control of the situation here is beyond bad.

  2. @Kellen – it makes all the sense in the world for other countries not to allow their citizens to travel here. But it makes zero sense for the U.S. to continue to allow people to come *unless they’ve been to Europe, China, or Brazil*.

  3. @Gary it makes some sense for the US to block people traveling into the US if they’re coming from areas where there are > 10 new cases/day/1M population or positive testing over 10% (or similar measure). There’s no need to import new cases and either strain healthcare in cesspool areas or risk starting new hotspots in areas that did a good job. So China and Continental Europe should be reopened, Brazil not, and a bunch new countries like Russia should be added to the travel ban (not by the color of the traveler’s passport but from where they traveled). And of course Americans coming from those areas should be quarantined in Federally-run centers (e.g. repurposed hotels) at the expense of the traveler.

    Almost everything done by Federal politicians has been a complete disaster; the economy is plunging again due to losing the war on COVID.

  4. Yawn, the CDC excess deaths line went hugely negative this week indicating the people aren’t dying anymore from this. If you are still afraid you should stay at home and confront your personal demons.

  5. Multiple reports and articles have said that Russians without clearance still made it into Europe and other countries via the land border with Belarus and Serbian airports.

  6. It does not make sense that US allows passengers from Russia, these flights are not “illegal” in Russia. Did you double check your sources?

    For example next JFK-SVO on June 5 is advertised on Russian embassy website. You need to register on a special governent website to get tickets for this flights and live in Moscow or nearby, ie no connecting flights allowed and self quarantine on arrival.

    Inbound SVO-JFK is a different story. It’s absolutely normal flight and tickets are available for sale.

  7. Hey Willy: my betting record against you Covid deniers has been pretty good. Lemme think of a line on Covid deaths for the month of July and get back to you. I’m sure I can find a way to take your money and prove your school of thought wrong yet again. It’s been quite lucrative for me.

  8. @willy People who stay home don’t have personal demons or they wouldn’t be staying home. That’s quite different than the chump who you follow who is probably facing his own demons with the election coming up.

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