Wednesday, March 9 2016 21:53
Naira Badalian

Armenia Airline to launch its first flight on April 21: Destination Israel

Armenia Airline to launch its first flight on April 21: Destination Israel

ArmInfo. The new air carrier Armenia will launch regular flights on early April 21. The first destinations are Tel-Aviv and Moscow.

"The airline has big ambitions and plans. We will be flying to various cities of Russia, to Tehran, Dubai, Prague, Tel-Aviv, Kiev, Minsk, Barcelona, Larnaca, and London," Tamaz Gaiashvili, one of the founders of the company, told a news conference on March 9, promising to expand the geography of flights and take into account the interests of Armenian customers in the company's price policy.

The major shareholder of Armenia Airline, Robert Hovhannisyan, says the airline was registered and received an Air Operator Certificate two weeks ago. Now, the company has applied for licenses in a number of destinations. The company plans to hire about 200-300 people, of which 60 have been hired already. These are mainly Armenian citizens and specialists of the previously operating Armenian air careers.  "We will be admitting applications from pilots and technical staff at the airport starting from tomorrow so that Armenian specialists could find jobs in their country," Gaiashvili said.

"The air fleet comprises mainly Boeings 737-700, 737-700 and 737-800.  The airline will launch regular flights with 3 leased planes Boeing 737. The air fleet will be replenished with up to 8 aircrafts by the end of the year," Gaiashvili said. He said the average fleet age will be up to 15 years. The technical service of the fleet will be organized at Lufthansa, in Germany.

Ticket prices for some destinations will start from EUR49, but not everyone can get such tickets. To buy these tickets, it will be necessary to order them two months ahead. Such tickets will not be subject to return.  For those who will not manage to get these tickets, the flights will cost higher (inclusive of taxes and fees - about EUR 96). The final cost of the tickets will be at least 20%-30% higher than in Georgia. "Fuel and many other things are more expensive in Armenia," he explained.

"Aviation business is a difficult business and for a small country like Armenia 10 air careers is too much," Gaiashvili said. No country will do without state support, he said. Hinting that the new airline has already achieved certain agreement with Zvartnots Airport for possible preferences, the shareholders did not go into details.  Gaiashvili assured reporters that he has no information about the reason behind the failures of the previous air carriers, but the "local air market is promising enough and we plan to set to auction the company's shares in 2-4 and launch IPO," he said.

According to the General Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia, the founders of the "Armenia" air carrier are Ashot Torosyan (51% stake), Tamaz Gaiashvili (24%) and Robert Hovhannisyan (25%). Tamaz Gaiashvili is the founder of the Georgian "Airzena" company and the former chairman of the company's Board of Directors, while Robert Hovhannisyan is the former deputy chairman.

To recall, the national air carrier of Armenia - Armavia - suspended its flights on 1 April 2013 and launched the bankruptcy procedure. In 2014 the same happened to Air Armenia. On October 23, 2013, the Armenian government approved the program implying provision of competitive and long- term air transportation services in the country. The program is based on a joint study of McKinsey & Company and National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia.

In August 2015, Air Armenia received US$68.6 million from East Prospect Fund in exchange for 49% of its shares. To note, following the liquidation of Armavia, the "open sky" policy resulted in large-scale exodus of foreign companies from the Armenian market. As a result, due to the high prices of air tickets, many Armenian passengers prefer to make use of the services of neighboring Georgia, where there are several low- cost European companies.

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