By Shakeh Avoyan
A private Turkish airline is scheduled to start on Thursday weekly flights from Istanbul to Yerevan that have until now been operated only by Armenian carriers.
Officials said on Wednesday that the company, Fly Air, joined the charter flight service after obtaining a permission from the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department. The deputy head of the department, Khachatur Kirakosian, told RFE/RL that the Turks will be allowed to carry out two flights a week at least until December 31.
The Istanbul-Yerevan service was launched in 1995 by Armenian Airlines, the now bankrupt state-run carrier. It is currently operated by the Russian-owned Armavia airline that took over most of Armenian Airlines’ flight rights last year. Armavia currently flies to Turkey’s commercial capital twice a week and can now add a third flight to the schedule.
Kirakosian cautioned that the existing travel demand might not warrant that many flights. “It seems to me that making five or four flights a week will be an awful lot,” he said. “Time will tell [whether the flights be profitable]. But a good thing about this is that there will be competition and I think the price of tickets will fall as a result.”
Kirakosian further revealed that the Armenian authorities were initially against giving a Turkish carrier access to the Armenian market, but backed down after the Turkish side threatened to ban the Armavia flights in accordance with international conventions.
The expansion of the air link between Istanbul and Yerevan comes amid lingering indications that Turkey could drop its preconditions for reopening of its land border with Armenia in the near future. The move would significantly boost commercial ties between the two neighboring countries with a long history of mutual antagonism. Their unofficial bilateral trade is mainly carried out via Georgia and Iran.