Russia just became more affordable for British travellers, as Wizz Air today unveiled budget flights from London to St Petersburg and Moscow.
The flights, starting from £25.99 one-way, will launch in October 2019 and operate daily from London Luton Airport to Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport and Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg.
This marks a considerable drop in the price of travelling between the UK and Russia. Prior to today’s announcement, the cheapest flights available in 2019 from London (Heathrow) to Moscow cost £248 return with British Airways (travelling from October 8–12).
The cheapest flights from London (Gatwick) to St Petersburg for 2019 would have set you back £154 (flying with Aeroflot from October 8–13).
At a starting price of £25.99 each way, getting to Russia is now cheaper than the cost of an open return train from London St Pancras International to Luton Airport (£30.30).
Low-cost airline easyJet cancelled its flights to Moscow in 2015, following the sharp devaluation of the ruble on the back of plunging oil prices. They have not reintroduced the route since. Ryanair does not operate any flights between the UK and Russia.
Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK said: “Today marks the launch of two of the most exciting routes so far in Wizz Air’s network. For the first time, Wizz Air is giving our customers the chance to travel from the UK to two of Russia’s greatest cities, avoiding high legacy airline prices with our ultra-low fares.
“We’ll be the only UK carrier flying to St Petersburg and on both new routes, our customers will enjoy [a] great travel experience on board Europe’s youngest and greenest aircraft.”
Celebrating its 15th birthday this year, Wizz has grown from a plucky start-up to a dominant operator across central and eastern Europe.
In a way, Wizz can thank the European Union for its success. Its launch in 2004 coincided with a number of eastern and central European nations joining the EU. Little more than a decade after the Berlin Wall fell, countries that had spent decades behind the Iron Curtain jumped at the prospect of being free to travel and work across the Continent.
The airline now serves 147 destinations across 44 countries. And there’s room for further growth. With more than 250 aircraft waiting to be delivered it has one of the biggest order books in Europe. It does, however, have some way to catch up with Ryanair. While Wizz flew 34 million passengers in 2018, its Irish rival carries nearly four times that number every year.
Where does Wizz fly?
From Luton, Wizz flies to 60 destinations in 28 countries, from Tromso (Norway) in the north to Eilat (Israel) in the south. Though the majority of Wizz’s route map is centred on eastern Europe, it also serves Reykjavik, Oslo and Lisbon, as well as Grenoble, and Larnaca in Cyprus. Last week the airline announced a new service from London to Stavanger in southwest Norway.
Then, of course, there are its regional UK routes, to and from, among others, Doncaster-Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol.
Will it ever look to capitalise on the UK’s love affair with Spain and France? “Spain is a very congested market,” said Owain Jones, adding that his focus is on “stimulating demand where there hasn’t been before.”
Why go to Moscow?
Our Russia expert, Paul Sullivan, says: “Moscow’s size, reputation and Soviet architecture has given it a fairly intimidating reputation. But there is much more to the Russian capital than its central role in the Cold War.
“In fact, the capital has a fascinating history that dates back over 800 years, and while it doesn’t have the dreamy canals and European glamour of its northern counterpart St. Petersburg, it’s no slouch in terms of culture, hosting some some of the country's most renowned art and history collections, theatres and film studios – not to mention some extremely luxurious shops, glamorous restaurants and slick bars.
"Most of the action can be found within the Garden Ring, where a thoroughly contemporary, if not downright ostentatious, buzz prevails.”
To find out more about Moscow, check out our insider guide to the mighty metropolis.
Why go to St Petersburg?
“Facing west across the Baltic Sea, St Petersburg was created by its founder Peter the Great as a “window into Europe”. Designed by a slew of renowned European architects, its baroque palaces, geometric layout and picturesque canals (Goethe named it the "Venice of the North") are purposely reminiscent of Europe, although Orthodox churches and the ubiquitous Cyrillic script are reminders that this is nonetheless an exotic land,” says Paul Sullivan.
“Long regarded as the country’s premier cultural hub, it offers an endless array of artistic thrills that span over 200 museums (including the Hermitage and the Russian Museum) and world-class ballet, opera and classical music.
“Visitors might be surprised by its contemporary edge too. Significant investment into the centre’s regeneration has resulted in a buzzing gallery scene and an ever increasing numbers of hip and upscale bars, restaurants and boutiques.
“To experience the city at its most romantic, visit during the White Nights, from late May to early July, when the sun blazes all night long and the city comes alive with arts festivals, outdoor concerts and more.”
To find out more about what to do in St Petersburg, check out our insider guide to Russia’s grandest city.