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This European airline is using a subsidiary to restart flights to Russia

The airline says they are supporting Ukrainian citizens with 100,000 free flight tickets.
The airline says they are supporting Ukrainian citizens with 100,000 free flight tickets.   -   Copyright  Tanathip Rattanatum / Pexels
By Angela Symons

Wizz Air’s Abu Dhabi subsidiary is resuming daily flights between the UAE and Russia in response to “travel demand.”

The Hungarian budget airline temporarily suspended all flights to and from Russia at the end of February in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The move, announced by the airline last week, has attracted widespread condemnation, with social media users calling it “money over morality” and “supporting terrorists”.

In a tweet today, Wizz Air say they are “providing 100,000 free tickets on all continental European and UK flights” which is “in continued support of Ukrainian citizens.”

Why is Wizz Air Abu Dhabi resuming flights to Russia?

“The airline is resuming its operation to Moscow to meet travel demand for passengers wishing to fly to and from Russia as per the air transport agreement between the two countries,” says Wizz Air in a Facebook comment.

As of 3 October, direct flights between Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) are available, priced at around €240 return.

What has the response been to Wizz Air resuming flights to Russia?

Netizens have taken to social media to criticise the move.

“Almost half a year [Ukraine] is in full scale war with [Russia], half a year we show Russian terrorism to the world and try to reason companies to stop sponsoring indisputable terrorism. Seems like dead children, ruined future of millions is not enough for @wizzair,” reads a widely shared tweet by user @igorlachenkov.

Another Twitter user @stiaukr adds, “@wizzair can you please show us what the current rate exchange rubles vs Ukrainian lives are? As a sponsor, have you already chosen on what rocket they will put your logo on?” 

Some are cynical about Wizz Air’s offer of free flights to Ukrainians.

“What a disgusting move. You won’t bring back Ukraine’s murdered children or ruined houses with free tickets. Instead you sponsor this,” tweets @zipitnick.

While others drove the impacts of the war home saying Wizzair “resumes flights in the country of the aggressor of Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian military is shelling my city from a nuclear power plant. Do @wizzair you support nuclear terrorism?” tweets @nastya_lego.

Twitter users have been adding #wizzairsupportsterrorists to their tweets.

Why don’t EU sanctions apply to Wizz Air’s UAE offshoot?

The airline’s Emirati offshoot, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, is a joint venture with state-owned ADQ. The European-based Wizz Air owns 49 per cent of the subsidiary.

It is separate from parent company Wizz Air Hungary and Wizz Air UK, which are not operating flights on this route. All UK and EU airlines are subject to a ban on air travel to and from Russia.

Responding to negative comments regarding the move on Facebook, the airline said “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi is a national UAE carrier that operates in line with the UAE's national regulations and policies…All the UAE national airlines are currently operating direct flights between the two countries.”

Gulf Air, EgyptAir, Etihad and Turkish Airlines are among the airlines operating flights between the UAE and Russia.