John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, welcomed on Friday the Armenian government’s decision to fully liberalize the domestic aviation sector that was until recently dominated by a single airline.
Heffern met with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to “congratulate” him on the development and discuss its implications, the government’s press office said in a statement.
“The ambassador pointed out that the transition to the ‘open skies’ policy is a good opportunity to stimulate Armenia’s economic development and tourism and expressed readiness on behalf of the U.S. government to support the program’s implementation,” added the statement.
The policy change announced by the government on October 23 stemmed from the recommendations of the U.S. consulting firm McKinsey and Company. The latter was contracted by the government in July to look into the sector and propose ways of developing it following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline.
Armavia enjoyed exclusive rights to carry out flights to Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East for almost ten years. Foreign airlines needed its permission to launch flight services to and from Armenia. This led to a disproportionately high cost of air travel.
Local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards are now supposed to be allowed to carry out flights without any restrictions. The government expects that ticket prices will drop and air traffic will increase as a result.
Heffern publicly advocated such a liberalization earlier this year.