If you’re planning on operating your business aircraft to the 2014 Winter Olympics, you should begin your trip coordination as soon as possible. Not only will this be a busy period in Russia, but there will also be limitations on preferred hotel accommodations, aircraft parking, and pre-paid local ground transport – especially for operators who set up last-minute trips. Here is an overview of what to expect when planning your trip:
1. The 2014 winter games will be in Sochi, Russia
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia, February 7-23, 2014. Sochi is located on the Black Sea near Georgia. Events will be held at two venues about 15 minutes apart via train. Indoor events will take place at the Olympic Park, which is being built for this event, with everything within walking distance. Mountain events will take place at Krasnaya Polyana just north of Sochi. There are a number of new facilities, including hotels that are currently under construction.
2. Be ready to drop and go
The airport nearest the Winter Olympic venue will be Sochi (URSS), but aircraft parking will not be possible there, except for government aircraft and aircraft carrying Olympic Committee personnel. For all others, only drop and go’s will be permitted. Operators may want to consider a nearby alternative or parking their aircraft outside the country after dropping passengers at URSS. A ground handler will be available at URSS to supervise airport authority personnel looking after below-the-wing handling.
3. Know alternate airports
There are five recommended alternate airfields with parking availability ranging in distance between 120-260 nautical miles (NM) from URSS:
is 120 NM from URSS and is a 24/7 airport of entry (AOE). Aircraft parking is limited with all aircraft including/up to an Airbus welcome but parking must be requested early. The airport authority handles aircraft at this location.
, though not an AOE, is another alternative located 125 NM from URSS with ground handler availability.
, 146 NM from URSS, is an AOE with a ground handler available to supervise the airport authority handling your aircraft.
, located 150 NM from URSS, is an AOE with full ground handling availability.
, located 260 NM from URSS, is another good AOE to consider for aircraft parking.
4. Pre-plan for credit and ground services
It’s important to arrange for credit and aircraft services well in advance to avoid last-minute issues. Credit can be established for services at all of the above locations, but prior notice is required. While fuel and de-ice services will be available at all Winter Olympic-area airfields, you may run into limitations in terms of ground support equipment (GSE) availability and in-flight catering options—especially at more remote locations.
5. Book early to secure 4-star+ hotel rooms and ground transport. Availability is limited.
Hotels are currently under construction in the vicinity of the Winter Olympic site, but options and availability of major international hotel chains will be limited. It’s anticipated that 47,000 hotel rooms will be available with 27,000 of those being built for the event and a majority opening between June and October 2013. Most of the hotel rooms will be rated 3-star or lower with only a few rated 4-star. Also, hotels will generally not accept reservation requests until about 11 months out. You should anticipate strict cancellation policies for bookings around the Winter Olympics. In most cases, deposits and length of stay minimums will be required. Consider arranging hotels through your 3rd-party provider along with the rest of your 3rd-party trip coordination for the best options.
Similarly, you should be aware that pre-paid transport (car and driver) may be in short supply during the Winter Olympics.
6. Slots, landing permits, and security procedures
Airport slot and prior permission required (PPR) policies have yet to be determined. There are currently no published special routing requirements or new security procedures for arriving private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations.
Landing permits will be needed. The official landing permit lead time is seven business days, but two to three weeks is recommended for landing permit requests during the Winter Olympics. Landing permit requests must specify the route of flight, flight information regions (FIRs), purpose of flight, crew and passenger information, and aircraft information. Be mindful that short-notice permit changes are not recommended and may not be possible. Best practice is to maintain your originally planned schedule.
7. Both crew members and passengers should get visas in advance
Visas will be required for certain nationalities for both passengers and crew members, and must be obtained in advance through the Russian Embassy. Only a few airports in Russia have systems in place to issue crew visas upon arrival as this is only possible in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas. In addition, the cost of obtaining visas at these locations can be significant due to fees and penalties as visas can be obtained prior to arrival. Always confirm visa requirements in advance with your 3rd-party provider or ground handler. When possible, you should consider applying for multi-entry visas to enhance operating flexibility. In order to secure crew visas, you’ll need an invitation letter from your hotel, so it’s best to request this documentation in advance.
8. The Russian navigator requirement is TBD
Normally, Russia requires on-board navigators for operations to domestic airfields, but the “navigator requirement” has yet to be determined for the Winter Olympics venue and alternate airport options. When a Russian navigator is required, he/she must be requested during the landing permit process.
9. Cabotage regulations are strictly enforced in Russia
Be aware that cabotage is a serious issue in Russia. The same passengers that arrive in Russia onboard a particular aircraft should depart on the same aircraft. For that reason, passenger information needs to be on all landing permit requests and should indicate which legs particular passengers will be on. Cabotage exemptions may be possible, but will be at the discretion of the Russian Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) during the permit request process as the CAA does not like changes to approved permits.
10. Keep your ground handler updated of changes
You should be mindful that earlier-than-planned arrivals may impact ground handling arrangements and result in delays. It’s imperative to update your ground handler regarding any changes.
11. Additional resources
For more information see the Official website of the Olympic Movement and the Sochi 2014 website.
Best practice is to begin planning hotel accommodations and local transport arrangements as soon as possible. It’s also important to determine the best location to park your aircraft as URSS will not be an option for non-government and non-Olympic committee operators. Start organizing your trip to the Winter Olympics with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler as soon as a firm schedule is known.