Spring and summer were looking great for European travel, as borders reopened, international restrictions lifted and millions of travelers booked overseas flights, cruises and tours.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine.
Now, millions of people may be rethinking those plans. And a battered travel industry that was anticipating a booming summer season is facing another round of uncertainty.
On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration expanded the no-fly zone in eastern Europe for U.S. carriers to include all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well as part of western Russia. Air travel worldwide is getting messier too. After Britain banned Russian Aeroflot flights to the U.K., Russia banned all British flights from its airspace.
Many of those flights are being rerouted through nearby countries, according to the International Air Transport Association. But the group warned Thursday that “closure of additional airspace could impact this scenario.”
Travel advisers say they’ve heard from some travelers who are questioning whether they should keep existing plans or rebook elsewhere. But so far, they say, cancellations aren’t a big problem.
“Given the rapidly changing situation, it’s still too early to tell,” said Erika Richter, spokeswoman for the American Society of Travel Advisors.
Some major travel operators, however, are not waiting to make decisions. They’ve already adjusted certain European itineraries and pulled the plug on other excursions altogether.
On Thursday, Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest cruise operators, said it was rerouting trips around the Baltic region to avoid Russian and Ukrainian ports. Viking Cruises released a statement that said “We have made the difficult decision to cancel all 2022 departures of our Kiev, Black Sea and Bucharest itinerary.” And travel writer and tour operator Rick Steves said in a blog post that his company was canceling tours in Russia for the rest of the year, but Europe would remain on the calendar for now. “It is important to keep geographic realities in mind and remember that a war in Ukraine is as far from our European vacation dreams as a war in Guatemala would be from Texas or Florida,” he said, adding “We see no reason to change the rest of our travel and touring plans.”
The uncertainty created by the Ukraine conflict comes as rapidly falling Covid rates and easing of international restrictions have fueled a strong and steady rise in demand for global travel.