Russian Airlines to resume flights to Tehran after COVID-19 halt

November 13, 2020 - 18:1

TEHRAN – Russia’s flag carrier Russian Airlines, commonly known as Aeroflot, is scheduled to resume flights to the Iranian capital, Tehran, following months of suspension over the coronavirus outbreak.

As of November 18, Aeroflot plans to operate two weekly flights on Sundays and Wednesdays between Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA).

However, only passengers with a passport or residence in Russia are allowed to travel on these flights. They also need to carry a health certificate with a negative coronavirus PCR test result, issued at most 72 hours before the flights.

Over the past couple of months, many countries, including the Islamic Republic, imposed travel restrictions to help curb the spread of novel coronavirus. In this line, incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended, and road travels restricted to a great extent.

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on Iran’s civil aviation sector with reports showing that airlines lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of flight cancellations during the busy New Year travel season in late March.

Visa waiver for group travelers at final stage

In 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups.

The action plan for the previously-reached visa-free travel for group tours between the two countries was finalized after Iranian, Russian experts exchanged views in a virtual meeting in early September.

Iran’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts also announced that an Iranian delegation will soon visit Russia to ink the action plan.

Last February, Iran’s tourism ministry announced that it would follow up on the agreement at the [27th edition] Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which was scheduled to be held from March 17 to 19.

Based on the 2017 agreement tour groups of 5 to 50 people heading to [easternmost parts of] Russia from Iran or vice versa are granted a visa-free stay of up to 15 days.

Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, had told Sputnik that the visa agreement may significantly surge the tourist flows between the two countries, just like it happened when a similar deal was signed between Russia and China. The flow of Iranian tourists to Russia increased by 50-70 percent following the operation of direct flights that connect Iran to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Sochi, she said.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ibrahim Pourfaraj said last year that a majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of vast tourist attractions that exist in every corner of Iran. “The fact is that Iran’s political and economic relations with Russia are considered as good, but this has nothing to do with attracting tourists because it is directly connected with the Russian people. It is the Russian people who must choose Iran as their destination,” he explained.

Iran is taking proactive measures in line with the long-term goal of 20 million tourists by 2025. However, some officials believe the country is nowhere close to the point of reaching its full tourism potential and lagging far behind neighboring countries like Turkey.

ABU/MG
 

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