Plans are underway to turn the South Caucasus country of Georgia into a transit hub for Russian travelers flying to Europe, the RBC business daily reported Thursday, citing the part-owner of a Russian airline and major airport.
Russia has been largely cut off from Europe since its invasion of Ukraine sparked mutual airspace bans between Moscow and the European Union. Russians traveling to Europe — and Europeans traveling to Russia — have since had to travel via cities like Istanbul, Dubai, Yerevan and Belgrade.
Vitaly Vantsev, the part-owner of Azimuth Airlines and Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, told RBC that work was underway at Tbilisi International Airport in the Georgian capital to create a transit hub for passengers traveling from Russia to Europe.
“Our partners from Georgian Airways are providing good offers for Russian passengers in terms of transit, open flights to Europe — to Paris, Nice and Rome, where direct flights are now closed,” Vantsev said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in May lifted a ban on direct air travel with Georgia that had been introduced in 2019 following anti-Russian rallies in Tbilisi.
Both Azimuth Airlines and Georgian Airways recently resumed flights between Russia and Georgia, while Georgian Airways announced in May it would launch transit flights from Russia to Europe, with destination cities including Vienna, Milan, Paris, Thessaloniki and Larnaca.
“Together with Georgian Airways, we are trying to bring together [this hub] so that it is as convenient as possible for our passengers, so that the connection is short, about an hour to an hour-and-a-half,” Vantsev said.
The resumption of flights with Russia sparked protests in Georgia, a country that in 2008 fought a brief but bloody war with Moscow that resulted in an ongoing Russian military presence in 20% of its territory.