A senior Armenian government official on Thursday attributed a sharp rise in the cost of commercial flights between Yerevan and Moscow and other major Russian cities to the increased number of visitors to Armenia.
The prices of tickets for flights from Yerevan to key Russian destinations, which account for most of Armenia’s air traffic, have shot up this month, prompting complaints from travelers. A one-way Yerevan-Moscow air ticket now costs at least 110,000 drams ($230), or twice as much as it did just a few weeks ago. The vast majority of those flights are carried out by Russian airlines.
Sergey Avetisian, the head of Armenia’s civil aviation authority, blamed the price hikes on a nearly 30 percent rise in the number of people visiting the county which he said was recorded in the first seven months of this year.
Avetisian said airlines are now struggling to meet the “unexpected” extra demand for air travel between Armenia and Russia. He also argued that August has traditionally been the peak season for those flights.
“We are trying to do everything together with the airlines so that they increase the number of seats or carry out additional flights,” Avetisian told journalists.
“I am expecting today some responses regarding additional flights,” he said. “We have to understand that in order to increase the number of flights an airline needs to have vacant aircraft. If it does not have vacant aircraft it will have to redirect them to Yerevan from other routes.”
The official insisted that the seasonal price hikes are not raising questions about the liberalization of Armenia’s civil aviation sector which was announced by the government almost four years ago.
The government decided to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy in October 2013 following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. The latter 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.
The number of passengers processed by Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport as well as a much smaller airport in Gyumri has grown significantly since 2013. Avetisian’s department expects it to reach a new record high this year.