Turkey's Pegasus and Onur Airlines decided to halt flights to Russia on temporary basis, as Russia demanded visa from Turkish air company flight crew members despite international civil aviation rules. While Turkish Airlines flights continue to Russia, debates are on the table on how to solve this newly developed crisis “on air”.
Tension between the two countries has grown after Russian Su-24 war jet was downed by Turkey due to border violation on Nov. 24, 2015.
Moscow has suspended a visa-free travel agreement with Turkey and banned charter flights between the two countries, while travel agencies have been advised against selling holiday packages to Turkey, a popular tourist destination for Russians.
According to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules, flight crews who do not leave the plane and are on round trip are not obliged to have visa. These crews do also have the rights to stay in the arrival destination for one or two days, with an exclusive permit.
Bulgaria as transit landing zone for flights to Russia
Pegasus halted flights to Russia until Jan 13 and Onur Airlines halted flights to Nalchik until Jan. 14, 2016.
On the other hand, Turkish Airlines provided visa to its team of 150 people, as the largest carrier air company for Russia market before the crisis with Turkey.
This number was then increased to 400 crew members.
Russia has not been allowing private planes to depart directly from Turkey. Thus, Turkish private jets have been landing at a special zone in Bulgaria then resuming procedures for permit to flight to Russia. Russia accepts the applications as the demand comes from outside Turkey, with this strategy. Visas, on the other hand, are provided at the Gates as the operation is within the international aviation rules.