Thousands of Russian tourists stranded after flight bans

Travel agencies are scrambling to find alternative routes

Thousands of travelers had their flights home canceled after the EU and Canada closed their airspace to Russia airlines in response to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

More than 27,000 tourists were left stranded in Europe, the Caribbean, the US, and other places, according to a statement by the Travel Agencies’ Association of Russia on Monday.

Around 200 holidaymakers were stuck on Madeira, a Portuguese island in the western Atlantic. On Sunday, an emergency flight to take them home was forced to make a U-turn mid-air and return to Moscow.

Travel agencies are scrambling to find alternative routes for their clients as many airlines canceled flights not only to Europe, but to North and Central America. Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship passenger carrier, canceled flights to New York, Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, as well as Cancun, Mexico, the Travel Agencies’ Association of Russia said.

Egypt and Turkey, popular spots among Russian tourists, remain open, Russia’s top tourism official, Zarina Doguzova, said on Tuesday.

Countries began shutting down airspace for Russian airlines shortly after Moscow invaded its neighbor on Thursday, arguing that it was defending the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which broke off from Ukraine after the 2014 coup in Kiev. Ukraine said the attack was completely unprovoked and appeal to the international community for help.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sunday that the skies of the whole EU were closed to Russian aircraft.

Moscow responded in kind, banning flights of airlines from 36 states and territories.

The US, UK, and EU imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, hitting its banks and trade.

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