Canada lists travel risk to Ukraine as extreme, flights affected

Canadians in Ukraine are being told to shelter in place after an attack by Russia by land, sea, and air on Thursday. In its updated advice following the invasion, the Canadian government is also telling its citizens to find the nearest bomb shelter and to keep away from windows.

Canada is warning travel into Ukraine should be avoided due to extreme risk to personal safety, and is also suggesting those who can get out safely do so immediately.

However, travel in and out of Ukraine has been severely affected by the escalating conflict.

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Transport Canada has banned Canadian air operators from the Dnipropetrovsk and Simferopol regions of Ukraine airspace. It is recommending air operators not enter other airspace areas, including over Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa.

Ukraine airspace was cleared not long after Russian troops invaded, and few flights appear to be leaving from Kyiv, the capital city. However, details are sparse following explosions rocking the area at dawn.


All flights are now being forced to detour around Ukraine, and it’s believed that is leading to confusion and delays for travellers.

A flight from Israel to Toronto had to detour sharply from Ukrainian airspace as the attacks began. Passengers say they didn’t know how serious the situation was until they landed and heard the news. The flight was one of only two tracked over the country at the time.

Many travellers at Toronto Pearson International Airport said they felt unsure about their trips to Europe since the violence began.

“No matter what we are doing today that’s all you’ve got to think about – Ukraine is being invaded. I think everyone was waiting for it and here it is. It’s not just Ukraine, it puts the entire world at an unease, especially Europe,” said one passenger.

Previously, the federal government issued an advisory to Canadians in Ukraine to leave that country on Feb. 1, and warned that assisting anyone who remains in Ukraine would be difficult as consular services would likely be limited.

On Thursday, Canada’s embassy had closed and that staff had been relocated to Poland.

There also remain COVID-19 travel restrictions in place for those flying out of Ukraine to neighbouring European nations.

Some experts are advising people to avoid travelling to countries surrounding Russia and Ukraine. Allison Wallace with the Flight Centre notes the concern is the situation could quickly escalate and impact Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

“Obviously, the situation is extremely fluid, and it’s just happened, and it’s going to depend on how things evolve. But certainly, the countries bordering the Ukraine, it’s recommended not to be booking travel there right now. In terms of Western Europe, it’s hard to say at this point. There are no travel warnings against it. But nobody really knows how this is going to play out just yet,” she said.

Wallace says while it’s hard to justify someone trying to travel to Eastern Europe; the people most impacted are those who may not have seen family or friends who live in the region since the start of the pandemic.

“Now there’s this added stress of, ‘Will they’d be safe?’ and ‘Is everything going to be okay?’ It’s unfortunate overall … starting to feel that this travel recovery is in place with high vaccination rates and restrictions easing, and then a war breaks out. But keeping everything in perspective, the most important thing is safety.”

The travel industry has taken a significant hit in the past few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with restrictions in Canada slowly easing, the sector saw the situation turn as more people became confident travelling. But with the conflict in Ukraine, Wallace says “that’s going to take away some confidence to travelling into Europe, particularly Eastern Europe.”

“It’s certainly challenging, and it’s challenging on a number of fronts, but the travel industry continues to be resilient. However, this is not good news for the people of Ukraine, and it’s not good news for people planning to travel around those bordering countries.”

Most of the travel booked by Canadians in the next couple of weeks is to beach destinations such as Mexico– which Wallace doesn’t anticipate there being any immediate problems.

She says the best thing you can do is keep an eye on Canadian travel advisories, and if the feds decide we should avoid Europe, listen to them.

With files from The Associated Press and Michael Ranger

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