China has massively expanded their 72 hour transit-without-visa policy this year. Initially it was only possible to transit Shanghai for up to 72 hours without a visa, but this year it has been extended to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. Through the 72 hour transit-without-visa policy it’s possible to travel between two countries via one of the above four airports in China for up to 72 hours without needing a visa in advance. Your ongoing flight has to be international, and you have to be in transit, meaning you have to be continuing travel to a third country and not back to your origin (sorry, mileage runners!).
Russia currently allows many foreigners to transit St. Petersburg for 72 hours if arriving by cruise ship, but it seems they’re wanting to follow China’s lead in expanding the policy to air travel. The Russian government has drafted legislation to introduce a 72 hour transit-without-visa policy. Nationals of 20 countries (including the US and most major EU countries) will potentially be eligible to transit-without-visa at 11 airports in Russia.
However, Russia is taking it a step further than China and only making this available to those flying a Russian carrier to and from Russia. That means if you’re flying a foreign carrier either to or from Russia you wouldn’t be eligible.
That just seems utterly ridiculous, but I guess hardly surprising coming from the Russian government. Something also tells me they’re being a bit optimistic about how much extra revenue they think this policy will generate. Supposedly adding the 72 hour visa-free transit will increase Aeroflot’s revenues by $936 million. Meanwhile, they expect this will boost the hotel industry by $110-160 million a year. Both seem rather optimistic, no?
Anyway, this certainly opens up some interesting opportunities for Delta SkyMiles awards, as Aeroflot is a member of SkyTeam, and actually has decent award space. Getting a Russian visa can be a bit of a pain, so transiting Moscow for 2-3 days on an Aeroflot award doesn’t seem like a bad option.
(Tip of the hat to Mac)