MIAMI — As of 1 January 2020, St. Petersburg-Pulkovo Airport (LED) has become Russia’s first to offer 7th freedom flights, to approximately 30 countries in Europe. 

Coinciding with Russia’s introduction of free e-visas to citizens of 53 countries last year, and the Russian government’s desire to ease travel restrictions (notably, excluding the US and the UK), this enhancement will provide a considerable traffic boost to the home of the Hermitage.

Already Russia’s 4th busiest airport, handling more than 19 million passengers in 2019 (an 8.1% increase from 2018), now St. Petersburg can expect a wave of low-cost carriers from all points of Europe to dominate underserved routes.

Photo: Poudou99 – Own work

In Chicago, back in 1944, an international framework was set up to establish how international air travel would function.  Since that time, when the first two freedoms of the air were set, seven more have been introduced. 

The 7th freedom of the air, abbreviated as a 7th freedom, permits an airline to base aircraft, and commence flights outside of its home country. 

To give an example, in seizing upon this news, Hungary-based Wizz Air, announced flights between St. Petersburg and Bratislava, Slovakia to begin on June 1, as well as to Vilnius on June 3, Bucharest on July 1, and Sofia, on July 2.

According to Russia’s Ministry of Transport, for flights to 21 one of those countries, listed in the table below, flights can depart from and arrive at any airport and have no limits to the flight frequency, capacity, or the number of airlines serving a particular route.

Belgium Denmark
Estonia Finland
Iceland Ireland
Latvia Lithuania
Luxembourg Macedonia
Malta Netherlands
Norway Poland
Portugal Romania
Serbia Slovakia
Slovenia Switzerland

However, there are nine countries in which the flights are more restricted, ostensibly based on the popularity of a certain destination from Russia (e.g. the United Kingdom can have 7th freedom flights, just none from London):

Austria Excludes Vienna
Bulgaria Only Sofia
Cyprus Excludes Larnaca or Paphos (in other words, the only two airports serving the EU state of Cyprus)
Czech Republic Excludes Prague
France Excludes Paris or Nice
Germany Excludes Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, or Munich
Italy Excludes Milan or Rome
Spain Excludes Barcelona and Malaga
United Kingdom Excludes London

In tandem with the relaxed entry requirements for many nationalities, St. Petersburg can expect to see a surge of flights, and with that new tourist dollars, at least during the busy summer travel season.