By Nane Atshemian
Nearly month-long shortages of aviation fuel have complicated Armenia’s air communication with the rest of the world, forcing passenger jets flying out of Yerevan to make intermediate landings for refueling.
Armavia, the country’s main airline, and other carriers operating flights to Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Insufficient Kerosene supply at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport prevents their planes from reaching ex-Soviet destinations without refueling half-way through the flights. The two-and-a-half-hour Yerevan-Moscow service, for example, now requires a stopover in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
Western airlines flying to the Armenian capital have also been affected. “We are taking appropriate measures to counterbalance this effect to the best of our possibilities,” said Werner Krueger, head of the Yerevan office of Austrian Airlines, the third largest carrier of passengers to and from Armenia.
“We are using heavier types of aircraft that allow us to … avoid making intermediate landing on the way back from Yerevan to Vienna,” Krueger told reporters. “But it can not be 100 percent excluded. We had one case where our plane had to land to refuel.”
Zvartnots officials claimed that shipments of kerosene to Armenia have been strictly limited by authorities in neighboring Georgia under strong pressure from Azerbaijan. The fuel is said to be purchased in Turkmenistan and delivered to Armenia via Georgia and Azerbaijan. Its main importer is the Mika Limited company of Mikhail Baghdasarov, a government-connected tycoon.
Mika has reportedly confirmed this version of events. The Armenian government, however, has not commented on the shortages.
Krueger, meanwhile, announced that despite the fuel crisis Austrian Airlines is increasing the number of Yerevan-Vienna flights from four to five times a week to meet growing demand in air travel between Armenia and Europe and the United States. He said the company will likely add another weekly flight next year.