TUI Belgium cancels flights to Eastern Europe due to war in Ukraine

TUI Belgium cancels flights to Eastern Europe due to war in Ukraine
Credit: Belga

The war in Ukraine has seen interest in travelling to Eastern Europe plummet resulting in TUI Belgium cancelling all flights to Bulgaria until the end of June.

Flights to North Macedonia have also been cancelled for the entire summer season, and even flights to popular destinations like Prague have declined in demand, VRT reports.

The airline normally flies to the Bulgarian airports of Burgas and Varna – located near the Black Sea in the far east of the country – twice a week. But with both Russia and Ukraine bordering the Black Sea, too, tourism to this region has taken a hit.

TUI Head of Communications Piet Demeyere insists that Bulgaria is “absolutely not a risk country”, but noted that “Belgian travellers are somewhat reluctant to choose an Eastern European destination at the moment”.

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Passengers whose flights are cancelled can rebook to another destination or opt for a refund. “We have absolutely no intention of cancelling flights after June 30, but we will of course continue to monitor the geopolitical situation,” Demeyere says.

While demand for trips to Bulgaria and Prague has dropped, travellers have not given up on their holidays. Brussels Airport registered over 1.1 million passengers in March this year, six times more than during the same period last year.

“Travellers would rather take a city trip to Valencia or Lisbon than to Eastern Europe. The whole region suffers a bit from the situation in Ukraine,” Demeyere explains.

Post-Covid challenge

With Covid-19 restrictions now lifted, airports are frequently struggling with the sudden influx of travellers in European airports, Le Soir reports. The European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI) says there are “significant constraints” affecting air transport.

“The immediate challenge is to manage the sudden increase in traffic, given that the pandemic has had the effect of enormously reducing the resources of airports and ground handling,” says Olivier Jankovec, general manager of ACI Europe.

That means there are long waits at many airports, due to insufficient resources to manage the growing crowds, the director of general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh admits.

Walsh calls for action to “avoid dampening the enthusiasm of consumers for air travel”.

Both IATA globally and ACI Europe noted that activity was at its highest in March 2022 since the pandemic began to ravage the airline industry in March 2020.

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