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UPDATE: What do Russia flight bans mean for international travel from Switzerland?

Russian airspace is closed to Swiss and European airlines. What does this mean for international travel?

Swiss airlines are no longer allowed to cross into Russian airspace. What does this mean for travel? Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash
Swiss airlines are no longer allowed to cross into Russian airspace. What does this mean for travel? Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash

Russia has closed its airspace to Swiss and European airlines until March 31st, as a response to a Swiss and EU ban on Russian flights. 

Swiss airlines announced a suspension of all Russia-bound flights until the end of March after the announcement was made. 

Prior to that, Swiss had flown from Zurich to Moscow five times per week, from Geneva to Moscow twice a week and from Geneva to St Petersburg once per week. 

The ban applies to both commercial and private jets and the only exception to the ban is for humanitarian, medical or diplomatic flights. 

Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

What does the closure of Russian airspace mean for Swiss flights?

While the direct impact of Switzerland closing its airspace to Russian aircraft may be primarily symbolic, the closure of Russia’s sizeable airspace makes a significant impact for those on long-haul flights eastward. 

In addition to Russian airspace being closed, conflict has led to the closure of airspace in Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. 

Flights from Switzerland to China and Japan are particularly impacted by delays, with the duration to be between one and three hours longer. 

“The result is longer flight times between Zurich and Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing,” a spokesperson for the airline told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes. 

In addition to the longer distance, the flights are now more subject to further delays. 

For instance, a longer flight time can mean more weather-related delays, while the closure of Russian airspace looks set to lead to bottlenecks in certain areas, such as above Iran. 

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes confirmed that airspaces in several countries are organised in an “old-fashioned way”, which means flights need to follow after each other rather than above each other, as takes place in other countries. 

Hansjörg Egger, a Swiss aviation expert, told news outlet Blick that bottlenecks lead to additional fuel usage. 

“The planes have to constantly change altitude in order to avoid one another. That needs more kerosene,” Egger said

Due to the longer flight distance, the planes will require more fuel, although Swiss said the costs would not be passed on to consumers. 

Egger told Blick that although closures of airspace are relatively normal for airlines, Russia’s breadth makes this closure significant. 

“It’s not just any country, it’s the largest country on earth with eleven time zones!,” he said. 

Where are flights not affected? 

Flights to south-east Asia are not subject to delays at this point, as they do not normally fly over Russian airspace. 

Swiss tabloid Blick reports that flights to Singapore and Thailand, for instance, are not subject to delays at this stage. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain’s Basel to Berlin line

In early May, German transport provider Flixtrain announced it would begin running services from Basel to Berlin (and back) from June. Here’s what you need to know.

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain's Basel to Berlin line

German transport provider Flixtrain has announced it will launch in Switzerland from June 23rd. The low-cost provider is offering 10 franc (10 euro) tickets from Basel to Berlin, among other cheap fares.

The low-cost company, which has been establishing itself Deutsche Bahn’s major competitor Germany over the past few years, runs long distance bus and train services. 

When will the services run?

The lines to and from Basel run from Thursday to Monday, with one connection per day in either direction. 

It will take 8 hours and 45 minutes from Basel Badischer Bahnhof to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. 

A trip with the German ICE will instead take just over 7 hours. 

The new line is part of an expansion of services which is set to include around 70 destinations in Germany. 

OK but will it really cost CHF10?

The price of the ticket grabbed headlines, with Flixtrain saying in its press conference that the almost-nine-hour trip would only cost CHF10 (10 euro). 

Flixtrain spokesperson Sebastian Meyer told Swiss news outlet Watson that tickets would start at CHF10, but more expensive tickets would be available when the CHF10 offerings were sold out. 

“If the cheapest ticket contingent is sold out, the next higher one takes effect. In this way, we can always offer our passengers cheap tickets. Affordable prices are still possible due to the corresponding utilisation of the individual trips.”

In order to get the cheapest possible fare, travellers are advised to book early. 

REVEALED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Tickets between Basel and Berlin can cost as high as CHF150 or 160 euros from Switzerland’s SBB or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn respectively, although booking in advance can bring the price down to as low as CHF30. 

Where will the train to (and from) Berlin stop?

In either direction, the train will stop at: Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Offenburg, Freiburg, Wiesloch, Bad Hersfeld and Weil am Rhein. 

What else is different about Flixtrain?

Other than being bright lime green, Flixtrains allow you to take your bicycle with you, which is not allowed on most ICE long-distance trains in Germany. 

Are there any other destinations within Switzerland? 

As yet, Basel will be the only Swiss destination. The other two new routes are Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin to Weisbaden. 

In addition to the 10 franc (10 euro) ticket from Basel to Berlin, other journeys within Germany will start at 5 francs (5 euros). 

More information is available from Flixtrain at the following link. 

The expanded routes can be seen in the following image. 

A look at Flixtrain’s route network in 2022. Map: Flixtrain

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