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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 on Friday.

The Argentine company managing Yerevan’s 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 that followed the termination of Armavia flights on April 1.

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 a 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. They said foreign carriers’ interest in Armenia has increased substantially since Armavia went out of business.

“It is clear that for decreasing the ticket prices we need more flights,” Marcelo Vende, Zvartnots’s director general, told journalists. “Therefore, we need to have an open market so that those willing to carry out flights to Armenia 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 roundtrip 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 Shikhian, 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 starting from next. They will be carried out on a daily basis, he said.

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

Shikhian 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 bankruptcy, Armavia told the government late last month that it can resume operations if it is granted tax breaks and other financial concessions. Armenia’s civil aviation body dismissed the rescue plan as unrealistic.

News reports 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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