The strained relationship between Russia and Ukraine has deepened over the past couple of weeks after Ukrainian authorities introduced a ban on flights by Russian airlines into and over the country as part of sanctions over Moscow's support for rebels in the east.
The ban will take effect from the start of the winter schedules later this month and Russian national carrier Aeroflot has already terminated future ticket sales on its flights from Moscow to Kiev and Odessa and between St Petersburg and Kiev following the ruling. The ban also includes over flight rights for aircraft carrying military equipment and soldiers over the country.
"Russian planes with the Russian tricolor have no business in Ukrainian airports," said Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in a statement announcing the ban.
The Russian Government has described the move as "an act of madness", promising a firm response which has translated in the past couple of days into a retaliatory ban on Ukraine’s airlines. Approximately 3.5 million people travelled between the two countries in 2014, according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
According to the Russian Minister of Transport, Maksim Sokolov, the strong action from Ukraine will impact its own citizens more than those in Russia due to the better air connectivity offered from his home market. He suggested that approximately 70 per cent of traffic between Ukraine and Russia are Ukrainian citizens transiting via Moscow to other points across Europe and Asia.
The reciprocal bans have the potential to hit both nations' already struggling economies, reroute flights across a large part of Europe and lead to further economic disentanglement between the neighbouring states. Latest data from the World Bank's shows Ukraine's real GDP was expected to fall by over sevem per cent, making Russia and Ukraine the world's two worst-growing economies, according to a report by Bloomberg.
According to OAG Schedules Analyser data there are more than 450 return flights a week currently scheduled between Russia and Ukraine (based on flight schedules for the week commencing October 5, 2015) offering almost 75,000 seats in each direction. A total of 13 different airlines have flights scheduled between the two countries for the analysis period with the largest four operators in the market by seat capacity all being Russian carriers – Aeroflot (46.5 per cent share); Transaero (15.9 per cent); Ural Airlines (14.1 per cent) and S7 Airlines (6.4 per cent).
The majority of the Aeroflot flights are into Simferopol in the disputed region of Crimea which was annexed by the Russian Federation in March 2014, but the airline does also serve Kharkiv, Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine. When you remove the flights to Simferopol from the analysis, the total number of weekly return flights between Russia and Ukraine more than halves to 177 return services, with around 18,000 seats on offer in each direction.