Winter Olympics Travel: Sochi Russia

Patrick Surry - Jan. 31, 2016

Summary of Findings: Travel from US to Sochi

  • During October, November, and December of 2013 the most popular origins in the US for flights to Sochi (AER) were New York, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Portland, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Orlando, and Rochester.
  • The high ranking of several minor origins, such as Rochester,  is likely due to nearby training facilities.
  • Deal prices to AER from the US start at around $1,000 and go up to about $1,600 depending on the origin city.
  • Typical advance purchase time is about 50 days and typical length of stay is about 10 days.
  • Popularity and pricing increases during the dates of the Olympics for both JFK-AER and SFO-AER.  Mid April also appears to be a popular time to visit.
  • Traveling to AER from JFK and SFO is slightly less expensive if you are coming for the middle weekend of the games vs. the opening ceremony.

US to Sochi Market Analysis

Sochi Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, is located on the north eastern edge of the Black Sea near the border to Georgia.  There are direct flights to Sochi from only 8 cities (Figure 1), so anyone flying to attend the Olympics will transit through one of these locations.  Although there are some bargains to get to these transit locations, none of the direct flights from there to Sochi are cheap: for example, it costs $600 to fly from the US to Istanbul (IST), but then about $900 to fly onward from Istanbul to Sochi during the Olympics timeframe.

Figure 1: Direct flights to Sochi.  Beijing (PEK; not shown) is the longest direct flight, more than 3800 miles away or 8h30m flying time on Yakutia Airlines.

During October, November, and December of 2013 the most popular origins in the US for flights to Sochi were New York, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Bostn, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Portland, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Orlando, and Rochester.

![](https://cdn.hopper.com/static/rb/YiLJ2F1HiSkrsbpjGBLlbs0tkgak1ixcB7kp2uIq4RSinyANevMK4XM6XU-1wLCj9rXNcQG1Lu7-VCbhVlOoOHNyE0Nb2TUOKIfo9QlkCo2udc7f9-UMayg)_

Figure 2: Map of top US origins to Sochi, with flight search volume represented by bubble size.

Figure 3 shows the estimated daily searches and deal prices from the top 10 US cities to Sochi in October, November, and December.  New York is consistently the most popular US origin for flights to Sochi.  Other major cities in the US, such as Chicago and San Francisco also appear.  Cities such as Denver, Rochester, and Boston may be showing increased popularity due to their proximity to the US Winter Olympic training facilities at Colorado Springs in Colorado, and Lake Placid in New York.  Deal prices to Sochi for the games start at around $1,000 and go up to about $1,600 depending on the origin city.

Typical advance purchase time is about 50 days, with the exception of Denver where purchases are being made 80 days in advance (perhaps due to Olympic team advance planning).  Typical lengths of stay included in popular searches is about 10 days  with the exception of flights from PDX, SFO and EWR which have longer stays.

Figure 3: Breakdown of top origins by month of search.

Getting to Sochi from New York

The great circle distance between John F Kennedy Intl airport (JFK) near New York City, New York and Sochi airport (AER) is 5,315 miles and typical flights take about 17 hours and 30 minutes (including stops).

New York City to Sochi is the 5,800th most popular route word-wide, and Sochi is the 345th most popular destination from New York City.  New York City is ranked 1st of all origins arriving in Sochi.

Figure 4 shows the relative popularity and prices of upcoming dates for travel between JFK and AER.  It can be seen that popularity increases significantly for the dates of the Olympics.  Prices also increase during this time, with non-Olympic dates being about $300 cheaper.

The cheapest round-trip flights from New York City to Sochi are currently priced at about $1,066 for a round trip ticket. The cheapest flights we've seen for any dates in the next six months were priced from about $727.

The top 5 airlines serving this market are Aeroflot Russian Airlines (prices from $726 with 33% share of search results), Air France (prices from $1,199 with 23% share), Alitalia (prices from $1,236 with 19% share), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (prices from $1,169 with 15% share), and Delta Airlines (prices from $1,363 with 11% share).

Figure 4: Relative popularity and prices for specific travel dates between New York (JFK) and Sochi.  Each date shows the popularity or price to be in Sochi on that day.  For example, being in Sochi on the middle weekend of the games (Feb 14-15) is more popular but slightly cheaper than being there for the opening ceremonies the prior weekend.

Getting there from San Francisco

The great circle distance between San Francisco Intl airport (SFO), California and Sochi airport (AER) is 6,727 miles and typical flights take about 26 hours (including stops).

San Francisco to Sochi is the 11,579th most popular route worldwide, and Sochi is the 290th most popular destination from San Francisco.  San Francisco is ranked 5th of all origins arriving in Sochi.

Figure 5 shows the relative popularity and prices of upcoming dates for travel between SFO and AER.  It can be seen that popularity increases significantly for the dates of the Olympics and again in April.  Prices are uniformly higher during February than late January or mid April, with no data available for March, May and June.

The cheapest round-trip flights from San Francisco to Sochi are currently priced up to about $1,414 for a round trip ticket. The cheapest flights we've seen for any dates in the next six months were priced from about $1,012.

The top 5 airlines serving this market are Aeroflot Russian Airlines (prices from $962 with 30% share of search), Air France (prices from $1,406 with 27% share), Turkish Airlines (prices from $1,380 with 21% share), Lufthansa (prices from $1,492 with 16% share), and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (prices from $1,399 with 7% share).

Figure 5: Relative popularity and prices for specific travel dates between SFO and AER.

Data and Methodology

The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution System (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day.  Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market.  Lowest fare, or deal fare, is represented by the 10th percentile prices.  For example if the 10th percentile price is $800 dollars it means that only 10% of trips are priced at or below this price.

Prices and popularity by date are determined by aggregating all flights that depart before and return after the date in question.  Prices by date are 10th percentile prices of such flights.  Popularity by date factors out the overall advance purchase distribution, as search rates naturally increase close to departure, in order to highlight long term patterns.

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