Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization on 21 September, meaning 300,000 reservists would be called to fight. As a result, tickets to flights out of Russia were sold out overnight as their prices skyrocketed. What is more, men aged between 18 and 65 could not even buy tickets in the face of high demand. What does it mean that a plane ticket costs a “lot,” and how much does one have to travel from Moscow to Budapest?
We have four options to travel from Moscow to Budapest on 27 September, the day I wrote this article. If we were to fly from Domodedovo International Airport to Dubai and from there to Budapest after a 4.5-hour layover, the cheapest ticket would cost only HUF 1,278,000 (€3138). This option would also be the most time-efficient way to travel, taking 15 hours 35 minutes. If we chose the second fastest option, we would travel 19 hours 35 minutes and pay almost HUF 5 million (€12,272). Furthermore, the flight would have ten times more carbon dioxide emissions than usual.
In fact, on 27 September, we would be lucky, as there are no empty seats at all for flights departing on the 28th, and a few days later, it would take nine hours longer to get to the Hungarian capital for the same money. To illustrate, for that money, we can buy a return ticket from Budapest to Los Angeles, a city six and a half times further away than Moscow. Four and a half times! But if we were traveling first class, we would have to wait until 11 October to do it for roughly the same amount of money as the economy class costs for the Moscow-Budapest trip now.
Let’s stay in Los Angeles if we were already imagining flying there. And not in Compton or similar neighborhoods, but in Beverly Hills, at the SIXTY, where we pay HUF 420,000 (€1031) for two nights. If we calculate with the same budget as we did for the Moscow-Budapest flight, we still have enough money to buy an iPhone 14 Pro Max after we paid for our flights and accommodation. And we still have HUF 100,000 (€246) to eat and drink. From HUF 1,278,000 (€3138), we can rent an average-priced apartment in Warsaw for three months, in Budapest for half a year, and in Bucharest for eight months.
But we cannot compare what a flight ticket means to many Russians now with the rental price of apartments, a trip to Los Angeles in a luxury hotel, or an iPhone. Those who leave their homes now are not doing it for pleasure; they are not looking for luxury and are not trying to get more fun out of a comfortable situation. They are fleeing a war they never wanted; the Russian leaders started violence over their heads. The aim is not to defend their homeland; they would have to participate in an invasion. The very expensive flight tickets mean for many young men that they can continue their lives without the physical and mental scars of the war. They will not commit things they might not be able to account for later, and they will not put their family members in a situation where they cannot know for weeks or months whether their loved one is ever coming home. There is no point in calculating how much grocery shopping could be done in Moscow with so much money, how many cocktails we could drink from it in a luxury bar, or how many semesters we could pay at the world’s best universities because, in most cases, Russians did not have the opportunity to consider these things either. They can only choose how to leave the country: by plane or troop truck.
Of course, the biggest victim of the war is Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Many Ukrainians had no opportunity to leave their country, neither by plane nor in any other way. There is no doubt that Ukrainian men, women, and children are suffering; their villages and lives are destroyed. But we must not forget that masses of people wanted to leave Russia after the conscription was announced, signaling that this war is not in the interest of average Russians. They expressed their opinion on the war with the flight tickets: thank you very much, but we do not want to fight in this war.
Graphics: Réka Pisla | Hype&Hyper