The government announced on Thursday a “gradual liberalization” of Armenia’s commercial aviation sector which officials said will open it up to more domestic and foreign airlines.
The government approved a new policy strategy for the sector in response to the recent bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline that enjoyed exclusive rights to international flights to and from the country for almost a decade.
“This strategy fosters the emergence of new carriers in Armenia and provides for unfettered air transport,” said Artyom Movsesian, head of the government’s Civil Aviation Department.
The document drafted by the department envisages that Armavia will be replaced by up to three other Armenian airlines to be selected soon. The government is due to call a relevant tender within a month.
There are currently 12 private airlines registered in Armenia. None of them was known to carry out regular international flights before Armavia went out of business on April 1. It remains to be seen whether other local investors will show an interest in the new opportunities in the aviation sector.
Movsesian indicated that unlike Armavia, the new domestic carriers will enjoy little government protection against foreign carriers flying to Armenia. He said flight rights for various destinations will now be granted on a competitive basis.
The official also revealed that the government is planning to sign an agreement with the European Union on a “common aviation zone” that will give European airlines easier access to the Armenian market.
Several European, Russian and other foreign companies have already increased the frequency of their flights or launched new services to Armenia since Armavia halted its operations, citing mounting debts. The Argentine operator of Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport welcomed these developments late last month, saying that they will reduce the relatively high cost of air travel to the country. It urged the government not to reverse the sector’s de facto liberalization that followed Armavia’s bankruptcy.