More Foreign Airlines to Fly to Armenia

By Karken Aslanian

Several foreign airlines will launch next month regular flights to Armenia in response to the recent effective bankruptcy of the Armavia national carrier, the country’s main airport operator said.

The Argentine company managing Zvartnots Airport stressed the importance of these developments, saying that they will reduce the relatively high cost of air travel to the country. It urged the Armenian government not to reverse the de facto liberalization of the aviation market the followed the termination of Armavia flights on April 1st.

Armavia ended its operations, citing mounting losses and its decision to file for bankruptcy. The government has still not decided whether to transfer the company’s exclusive flight rights to another Armenian airline or switch to so-called “open sky” policy.

Top Zvartnots executives advocated the latter option as they announced new flight services between Yerevan and Beirut, Dubai, Tel-Aviv, and Warsaw. “It is clear that for decreasing the ticket prices we need more flights,” Marcello Vende, Zvartnots director general, told journalists. “Therefore, we need to have an open market so that those willing to carry out flights to Armenian are allowed to do so. Until now there have been restrictions on all airlines [other than Armavia]”

A representative of Israel’s Arkia airline present at the news conference said it will launch next week weekly flights from Tel-Aviv to Yerevan. He said a round trip ticket will cost 350 euros ($455).

“We also plan to present direct Yerevan-Beirut flights that will be carried out by Middle East Airlines,” Vende’s deputy, Andranik Shikhianm said for his part. He added that Poland’s LOT airline will resume on June 15 virtually daily flights from Warsaw to Yerevan, which were discontinued late last year because of its disagreements with Armavia.

Shikhian further announced that the Fly Dubai carrier will increase the frequency of its Yerevan-Dubai flights. They will be carried out on a daily basis, he said.

Several other, European and Russian airline flying to Armenia already, increased the frequency of their service last month.

Shihikian stressed that the new and additional flights would not have been possible had Armavia remained afloat.

In what appears to be a last ditch attempt to avoid the government lat last month that it can resume operations if it is granted tax breaks and other financial concessions. Armenian’s civil aviation body dismissed their rescue plan as unrealistic.

New report earlier this week said that the government has sued the private carrier over 7 billion drams ($17 million) in unpaid taxes. According to Shikhian, Armavia also owes about $5.5 million to Zvartnots.

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