In 1939, Winston Churchill described Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
These poignant words refer to a secretive state—an inscrutable land that plays by its own rules.
And even though the Cold War has since come and gone, such perceptions of abnormality make Russia an intriguing country to visit.
Russia is the perfect destination for intrepid travelers who want to experience something new.
Granted, travel costs are high.
Nevertheless, adventurers can at least have some control over their airfare.
Take the following advice into account before booking your flight to Russia. And take it from me, a travel agent who spent years studying the art of scoring a sweet airline deal.
Where to arrive in Russia
International hubs in Russia
Moscow, Russia’s capital city, hosts Russia’s three busiest airports.
- Sheremetyevo International Airport is the primary international hub, serving around 40 million passengers per year. Most long-haul services use the facility.
- Moscow Domodedovo Airport and Vnukovo International Airport mostly focus on domestic and short-haul international flights.
Saint Petersburg receives numerous international flights from Europe and Asia via its Pulkovo International Airport.
Open jaw tickets
When you buy an open jaw ticket, you fly into one city and back home out of a different city. These tickets can save you money and time.
Given its gargantuan size, open jaw tickets are often worthwhile in Russia. For example, Trans-Siberian Railway passengers could fly into Moscow and return from Vladivostok to avoid backtracking the six-day route.
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Domestic flights in Russia
Domestics connections and flights in Russia
Russia is the biggest country in the world. Consequently, travelers often have no other option than to fly.
Each of its 270 airports receives domestic arrivals, which can either be added on as a connection or booked as a separate ticket.
If booking a separate flight, ensure you leave plenty of connection time because delays are remarkably common in Russia.
Traveling with carry-on luggage can entail modest savings.
Air safety in Russia
Russia’s aviation industry doesn’t have a stellar safety reputation. Aging aircrafts and inadequate government regulations are the norm, so keep the following in mind:
- Travel by train or bus when feasible.
- Fly with a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). These airlines are considerably more reputable than Russia’s numerous lesser-known carriers. All Russian airlines mentioned in this article are IATA members. Still, check the membership and safety record of the following airlines before booking as a precaution.
- Whenever possible, fly to larger and more developed airports, which have a better safety record.
- Charter flights, or flights that aren’t part of an airline’s normal timetable, aren’t required to adhere to the same stringent safety protocols as scheduled services. Avoid charter flights if possible, because they’re more prone to accidents.
- Read some airline reviews and study past safety incidents.
Domestic airlines in Russia
The following are the big players in domestic Russian air travel, some of which offer international services, as well.
- Aeroflot is Russia’s de facto national carrier.
- Rossiya is a subsidiary of Aeroflot.
- S7 Airlines is Russia’s second-largest domestic carrier and also services several Eastern Asian destinations.
- Ural Airlines offers domestic and international services from Yekaterinburg.
- Pobeda Airlines is a low-cost carrier and subsidiary of Aeroflot, with both domestic and regional flights.
- Nordwind Airlines connects Moscow with popular domestic and international holiday resorts.
- Pegas Fly is a domestic carrier based in Moscow.
Booking domestic flights
Passengers unable to book directly through the carrier’s website could try the following English language booking sites:
Airfares can also be purchased at the airport or through one of the many ticket offices throughout Russia’s city centers. Sometimes the best deals aren’t available online.
Headed to the Motherland? How to Find Cheap Flights to Russia
The tricks of the trade
Consider your seasons
Russia’s freezing winters result in a distinct lack of tourists and cheaper airfares. However, you shouldn’t have to suffer through sub-zero temperatures to find a good deal.
Aim to arrive just outside the peak July-to-August summer season. In May to June and September to October, the weather is pleasant enough and the flights are notably less expensive.
Find the best available flights
Airfares vary depending on the number of seats available. As a plane begins to fill up, its airfares will steadily increase.
With this in mind, book early and be as flexible as possible with your travel dates. Fare aggregators such as Google Flights can quickly display availability over an entire month or more.
Avoid Russian public holidays, especially during Orthodox Christmas in the first week of January when the whole country decides to travel at once.
Snag a special
Airlines release their best Russia specials around November. They release smaller promotions throughout the year.
Follow airline social media feeds and sign up for email newsletters to keep tabs on the best deals. Third-party platforms such as Hopper and Scott’s Cheap Flights are an excellent way to hear about promotions, as well.
Know the price range
The cost of an airfare to Russia varies widely depending on the season, seat availability and whether or not you’ve found a promotional fare.
Consider the following figures as a ballpark estimate for a return economy ticket.
- North America: 450-1,200 USD
- Europe: 150-500 USD
- South America: 1,000-1,500 USD
- Australia and New Zealand: 750-1,500 USD
- Asia: 500-1,000 USD
Choosing an international airline
Given Russia’s geopolitical isolation, the country welcomes relatively few international airlines each day.
Passengers who value service over price should check out airline reviews on the Skytrax website. Other travelers should look at fare aggregators such as Google Flights, Skyscanner and Kayak, which are great at finding the cheapest deal.
A mainstay of the international aviation industry since 1923, Russia’s flagship carrier is one of the world’s oldest airlines.
However, longevity doesn’t always equate to quality.
Financial and safety concerns have plagued the airline, particularly during the Soviet era when accidents were a common occurrence.
To shake things up, it underwent a major overhaul in the mid-2000s by replacing almost all its aging aircrafts with modern Boeing and Airbus machines.Fatal accidents have since dropped dramatically.
Aeroflot has a 40% stake in Russia’s domestic market and serves 129 destinations worldwide.
Direct flights from the Americas to Russia
Aeroflot is the only carrier that flies direct between the Americas and Russia. The continuation of their service is at risk due to ongoing diplomatic tensions.
Right now, Aeroflot flies between Los Angeles/Miami/New York and Moscow.
South American passengers typically connect via a European carrier.
Direct flights from Europe to Russia
- KLM flies between Amsterdam and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Air France flies between Paris and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Lufthansa flies between Frankfurt and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Austrian Airlines flies between Vienna and Moscow/Saint Petersburg/Krasnodar.
- Alitalia flies between Rome and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- British Airways flies between London and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Iberia flies between Madrid and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Swiss International Air Lines flies between Zurich and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Low-cost carrier Vueling flies between Barcelona/Alicante and Moscow.
- Finnair flies between Helsinki and Kazan/Moscow/Murmansk/Petrozavodsk/Saint Petersburg/Yekaterinburg.
- LOT flies between Warsaw and Kaliningrad/Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- airBaltic flies between Riga and Kaliningrad/Moscow/Saint Petersburg/Kazan.
- Brussels Airlines flies between Brussels and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- SmartWings flies between Prague and Moscow.
- Low-cost carrier FlyOne flies between Chisinau and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Bulgaria Air flies between Sofia and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Montenegro Airlines flies between Podgorica and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Aegean Airlines flies between Athens and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Air Moldova flies between Chișinău and Moscow/Saint Petersburg/Ekaterinburg.
- Belavia flies between Minsk and Moscow/Saint Petersburg/Kaliningrad/Kazan.
- Air Serbia flies between Minsk and Moscow/Saint Petersburg/Sochi.
Direct flights from China to Russia
Given their close geographical and political ties, numerous airlines connect China and Russia.
- Air China flies between Beijing and Moscow, as well as between Hailar and Chita.
- China Southern flies between Guangzhou/Ürümqi and Moscow/Saint Petersburg as well as Shenyang and Irkutsk.
- China Eastern flies between Shangai/Xi’an and Moscow as well as Shanghai and Saint Petersburg.
- Hainan Airlines flies between Beijing and Irkutsk/Moscow.
- NordStar flies between Sanya and Krasnoyarsk.
- Sichuan Airlines flies between Chengdu and Moscow.
- Capital Airlines flies between Hangzhou and Moscow.
- S7 Airlines flies between Beijing and Novosibirsk.
- Tianjin Airlines flies between Tianjin and Moscow.
- Lucky Air flies between Kunming and Moscow.
- Hong Kong Airlines flies between Hong Kong and Moscow.
Direct flights from East Asia to Russia
Russia remains well connected to the former Soviet states. The following is not an exhaustive list:
- Utair flies between Fergana/Tashkent/Samarkand/Dushanbe/Bukhara/Baku/Ganja/Nakhchivan/Yerevan/Gyumri/Nakhchivan and Moscow/Khanty-Mansiysk.
- Ural Airlines flies between Batumi/Kutaisi/Lankaran/Qarshi/Osh and Moscow/Yekaterinburg.
- Red Wings flies between Batumi/Fergana and Moscow.
- S7 Airlines flies between Batumi/Tbilisi/Baku/Ashgabat/Urgench/Samarkand/Osh and Moscow/Novosibirsk Oblast.
- Azerbaijan Airlines flies between Baku and Moscow.
- Low-cost carrier Pobeda Airlines flies between Gyumri/Tbilisi/Makhachkala and Moscow.
- Turkmenistan Airlines flies between various Russian and Turkmenistan destinations.
- Uzbekistan Airways flies between various Russian and Uzbekistan destinations.
- Turkish Airlines flies between several Turkish and Russian destinations.
Direct flights from the Middle East to Russia
- Emirates flies between Dubai and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Etihad Airways flies between Abu Dhabi and Moscow.
- flydubai flies between Dubai and Ekaterinburg.
- Qatar Airways flies between Doha and Moscow/Saint Petersburg.
- Iran Air flies between Tehran and Moscow.
- Air Arabia flies between Sharjah and Moscow.
- Royal Jordanian Airways flies between Amman and Moscow.
- El Al flies between Tel Aviv and Moscow.
- EGYPTAIR flies between Cairo and Moscow.
Direct flights from elsewhere in Asia to Russia
- Korean Airlines flies between Seoul and Moscow.
- Thai Airways flies between Bangkok and Moscow.
- Singapore Airlines flies between Singapore and Moscow.
- Vietnam Airways flies between Hanoi and Moscow.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand to Russia
Due to the distance involved, there aren’t any direct flights from Oceania to Russia. Many of the above airlines require only one connection along the way.
Find what you’re looking for?
With a little patience and the above information at hand, you’ll be sipping on vodka and shopping for matryoshka dolls in no time.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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