Plans have been made to repatriate customers of Bulgarian travel agency Alma Tour, which suspended operations citing "temporary financial difficulties" on September 20, reports in Russia and Bulgaria said on September 22.
Bulgaria's private flag carrier Bulgaria Air, whose decision on September 9 to refuse boarding to passengers booked by Alma Tour started was the root cause of the crisis, has agreed to fly out Russian customers of the tour company now in Bulgaria, according to a report by Bulgarian news agency Focus, which quoted Russian news agency Interfax.
A total of 264 Russian tourists were stranded in Bulgaria, according to the report, which quoted figures from Russia's federal tourism agency – 157 in Bourgas and 107 in Varna.
Bulgaria Air would fly the Russian tourists out to St Petersburg on September 23, Focus said. The flight would be free of charge for the holidaymakers after a deal had been struck with Russian tourist organisations.
Separately, travel agency Astral Holidays offered to make travel arrangements for Bulgarian tourists in Cyprus and Turkey who had booked their holidays through Alma Tour, according to a statement by Bulgaria's Commission for Consumer Protection.
Flights to Sofia have been arranged and paid for, but the holidaymakers would have to pay the costs of the transfer to the airport, although such costs would be minimal and subject to refunds from travel insurers, the statement said.
To book a place on the flight to Sofia, Alma Tour customers are advised to contact Astral Holidays representatives in Antalya (at +9053 6580 0807) and Cyprus (at +3069 5185 4315).
Bulgaria Air suspended service of Alma Tour charter flights claiming it was owed seven million leva (about 3.5 million euro), leaving an estimated 800 tourists, mostly from Russia but also Finland and the Baltic States, stranded. Talks to resolve the dispute over subsequent days all failed, but the holidaymakers were successfully repatriated.