Armenia’s only air carrier has suspended commercial flights in all directions for about two months, blaming a Russian navigation service for the situation.
Air Armenia, which began operating commercial passenger flights in 2013 after the bankruptcy and liquidation of Armavia, signaled its inability to continue its regular services due to financial difficulties.
In a press release late on Wednesday the company claimed the situation resulted from a ‘panic’ among investors and customers after a statement made by Rosaeronavigatsia, a Russian federal air navigation service, about the Armenian airline’s outstanding debts.
In its statement on September 11 Rosaeronavigatsia warned that it would ban Air Armenia from operating flights to Russian cities unless the Armenian company repaid its debts by September 21.
Air Armenia said it started experiencing problems with air ticket sales and its work with creditors in the wake of that statement that the Armenian company believes was published intentionally to damage its business reputation. As a result, the airline’s fleet was reduced to just one aircraft. In such conditions Air Armenia said it had decided to suspends all passenger flights at least until December 20, continuing to be engaged in cargo transportation only.
Former civil aviation chief Shahen Petrosian also alleged a deliberate move by the Russian agency aimed at ousting the Armenian airline from the local market.
He reminded that 80 percent of Armenia’s aviation market is now controlled by Russian companies – a year after the Armenian government adopted a so-called open skies policy. These Russian companies, he claimed, are trying to secure an even stronger presence in Armenia.
“This government has totally destroyed Armenia’s aviation,” Petrosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), predicting that after Armenia’s entry into the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union next year Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport will also be handed over to the Russians as it once was the case with the country’s energy, railway and communications sectors.
In these conditions, Petrosian thinks that Air Armenia, which managed to work in the Russian-dominated civil aviation market for only a year, can already be considered “bankrupt”.