Among the airlines that have recently announced about their leaving the Armenian aviation market are Czech Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and Etihad Airways.
Former head of the Government-affiliated Department of Civil Aviation Shahen Petrosyan says Armenia has ceded the entire aviation market to Russia.
“The open skies policy – in force for two years already - is a bluff. Our airspace has almost always been open to all airlines. After Armavia’s bankruptcy Air Armenia, a newly-founded air company, got the national carrier status. It was decided to liberalize the airspace without considering the interests of the local carrier. Air Armenia, however, went bankrupt instantly as it could not stand the price dumping policies of the Russian companies,” Petrosyan says.
The transit to the open skies policies takes long time and it is a normal market process, Petrosyan believes.
“If suddenly we get under sanctions like Russia we won’t be able to fly anymore because we have no aviation of our own,” says Petrosyan.
Political analyst Armen Grigoryan says the issue remains a political one.
“Improvement is possible given the relevant taxes are decreased. Armenia has the highest taxes as compared with the Eastern European countries,” Grigoryan says.
The USAID survey conducted in 2011, Grigoryan says, fixed that while the fees collected by the airport from passengers are on the average level, the taxes set for passengers by Armenia’s Government are among the highest ones in the world.
“Zvartnots International Airport charges 28 490 Euros for a two-hour parking of a plane while in Riga it costs 15 960 Euros. If the Government is really eager to improve, liberalize the industry, they might abolish the tax of 10 thousand drams,” Grigoryan says.
Some citizens of Armenia, therefore, prefer using Georgian airports when leaving abroad. Meanwhile, Georgia, which declared the open skies policy in 2005, has doubled the number of air passengers since.
“The entry of low-cost airlines brought great changes to Georgia and the number of European tourists to this country has increased today,” Grigoryan says.
The establishment of national airlines is a matter of political will, Grigoryan and Petrosyan believe.
“Back in 90s we had a war, blockade but we somehow managed to found three airlines which all operated. Now we are living in better conditions and it is not difficult to found a new company. It is the political will that we lack,” Petrosyan says.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator
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