By Shakeh Avoyan
An Argentine company that manages Armenia’s main international airport will increase promised investments that are designed to bring the facility into conformity with international standards, the Armenian government announced on Thursday.
Official said Corporacion America, which is owned by ethnic Armenian billionaire Eduardo Eurnekian, has pledged to invest $104.5 million in Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport in accordance with its revised master plan approved by the government. They said the bulk of the sum will go to pay for the ongoing construction of its new terminal.
Work on the three-story building began in June 2004. Eurnekian’s representatives in Yerevan said at the time that it will cost $42 million.
According to the head of the government’s Civil Aviation Department, Artyom Movsisian, the new terminal will start catering for passengers at the end of next year. “The new arrivals section will be operational by the end of 2006,” he told reporters. “The second floor, the departures area, will be complete by the end of 2007.”
Movsisian said Eurnekian’s company, which operates 33 airports in Argentina and elsewhere in South America, plans to spend another $104 million on building another Zvartnots terminal. The operator has to upgrade and expand the airport in order to keep up with growing air travel to and from Armenia, the official said. Eurnekian also reportedly intends to turn the airport into a transit hub for long-haul flights between Europe and Asia in the future.
According to official figures, Zvartnots handled just over a million passengers in 2004, or 23.6 percent more than in 2003. The Civil Aviation Departments expects a further increase this year. Movsisian said the main reason for increased air traffic is a growing number of tourists visiting Armenia.
Corporacion America took over Zvartnots in 2002 after signing a 30-year management contract with the government in Yerevan. The company claims to have already made substantial capital investments. However, it has been widely criticized for a major increase in the price of various airport services and slower-than-expected change at Zvartnots’s current terminal built in 1980.