Armenia’s air traffic has surged by roughly 20 percent this year following a long-awaited liberalization of the domestic civil aviation sector, the Armenian government said on Wednesday.
Data released by the government’s Inspectorate General of Civil Aviation shows the total number of flights carried out to and from the country rising up over 19 percent year on year in the first ten months of 2014. Accordingly, the international airports of Yerevan and Gyumri processed almost 1.8 million passengers, up by 22.3 percent from the same period in 2013.
The sharp increases clearly resulted from the government’s decision in October 2013 to switch to a so-called “open skies” policy. The move followed the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline, which had enjoyed exclusive rights to fly to Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East for almost ten years.
The liberalization, strongly backed by Western donors, meant that local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards can carry out flights to and from Armenia without any restrictions. Some of them have entered the Armenian aviation market while others expanded existing flight services over the past year.
Artyom Movsesian, the head of the Armenian civil aviation authority, said in January that the policy change is already bearing fruit, with tickets prices falling as a result of increased competition among airlines.
Armavia’s privileged status was for years blamed for the disproportionately high cost of air travel in the country. Air Armenia, a smaller private carrier which took over some of Armavia’s flights, has not enjoyed such government support during its yearlong operations in the sector.
Air Armenia suspended its flights to a dozen destinations in Russia and Europe late last month as a result of a financial dispute with Russia’s national air navigation service. It accused the Rosaeronavigatsia agency of scaring away its customers with false statements about its outstanding debts.
The company specialized in cargo shipments by air until last year. According to the Inspectorate General of Civil Aviation, Armenian air cargo traffic grew by 5.2 percent in January-October 2014.