The Estonian Association of Travel Agents has turned to the justice chancellor and is considering going to court in connection with a Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications decision to ban direct flights to third countries. Minister Taavi Aas (Center) said that decisions are made based on the epidemiological situation.
A charter flight to Turkey was scheduled to depart from Tallinn on Saturday morning, CEO of Tez Tour Tatjana Arhipova writes in a public letter to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, adding that major travel agents have organized nine charter flights to Turkey all of which have been sold out. Tez Tour's website currently reads that trips have been canceled until October 15. Until Tuesday, travel agents operated knowing that charter flights are allowed. Everything changed when the government only eased restrictions on flying to EU countries, ETV evening news program "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
President of the Estonian Association of Travel Agents Tiit Pruuli was critical of scant advance notice. "In a situation where tourism operators incur expenses, make preparations, sell tickets, agree with partners all over the world only for the decision to be changed with very poor communication – something is not right here," he said.
Pruuli says that the association contacted the ministry on several occasions before the Tuesday decision and was told that charter flights would be allowed. Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas gives the epidemiological situation as the reason for the cabinet's decision.
"The Health Board recommended canceling holiday travel only yesterday (Friday – ed.). Thinking back to the first wave [of the coronavirus], a lot of cases were importer from abroad," Aas said.
The CEO of Tez Tour has said that none of their customers have brought the virus to Estonia from either Greece or Turkey.
The association is considering turning to court and has asked the justice chancellor to analyze whether the economy minister's order is constitutional and in accordance with other legal acts.
We find the measure disproportionate. It absolutely fails to achieve its goal. If we wanted to fly to Antalya (the order canceled flights to Antalya for thousands of people), we only need to board a plane to Frankfurt from where four flights will leave to Antalya in the next 24 hours," Pruuli said.
Taavi Aas said that travel agents should keep an eye on the Council of the European Union's travel recommendations list.
"Doing that would have sent tourism operators a clear message in terms of certain restrictions regarding third countries," the minister said.
Tiit Pruuli said that the Council's list does not regulate flights directly and that Latvia and Estonia are the only member states that follow it to the letter.
Editor: Marcus Turovski