PhocusWire - Looking to Russia for a different perspective

It’s a useful interview as it’s one of the very rare cases the Russian viewpoint (this time – about travel) is communicated to the world without accusation of meddling into something.


  • At the time of the interview (05.08.2020) only two major travel markets were growing: China and Russia, primarily driven by domestic flights. Hence, the Russian story is actually quite fascinating.

  • Aviasales’s domestic flights numbers are up higher than in 2019 [MK: also see the recovery index].

  • Standardization of tests can be politicized —> customers lose.

Russian Travel Market Today

  • What’s happening now is new, but not brand new: 2014 was a terrible year, too, and many businesses wrote playbooks on how to handle crises when commissions go down or disappear and local currency tanks.

  • Russia’s approach to virus spread is containment below a certain threshold, allowing people to live more or less normal lives and travel without stigma.

  • This approach is not shared by EU and other countries, as the cost of a mistake of bringing someone symptomless into the country and spreading the virus to many is unacceptable.

  • I personally think this behaviour is short-sighted, but understand the need of politicians to look like they care about the population.

  • People are waiting for a vaccine, which is likely to appear soon, in order to travel internationally – for shorter trips, but going abroad nonetheless. So many people will travel twice this year.

  • 30% of traditional travel agencies won’t ever reopen. Their customers will move online.

  • We hope the first reliable international flight schedules will appear in October 2020, not earlier.

  • [MK: on 11.08.2020 Russia announced the registration of the first COVID vaccine]

Culture Surely Helps

  • People are resilient and are not afraid of flying.

  • It’s a cultural tradition to travel somewhere once a year, or it doesn’t count as annual leave. [MK: they also save for the trip for the entire year]

  • Many sustainable businesses have plans A, B, C, etc. – as many as they need to recognize a problem and use a planned response to it.

  • Huge shift online (to say the obvious); with travel agencies not reopening it’s easier to go online and find things cheaper. Price sensitivity plays a huge role here.

  • We see this clearly with the amount of brand-new audience (i.e. we’ve never seen them before) coming to Aviasales.

Technology and Remote Work

  • NDC is happening in Russia, airlines didn’t stop the adoption.

  • We commercially launched Aviasales for Business in the middle of the crisis to speed up the project (as smart articles tell us) and also to help businesses use the same value proposition (price comparison) with the tax documentation.

  • We work remotely until at least 1.1.2021 on a company initiative because many people are genuinely worried about their health, and also of their families and colleagues.