Armenia’s international air traffic continued to grow robustly in the first half of this year, the head of the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Committee, Tatevik Revazian, said on Monday.
Revazian reported a 9.4 percent increase in the total number of passengers processed by the country’s two international airport in this period.
The government agency registered an almost 12 percent rise in air traffic last year. Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport accounted for over 93 percent of it.
The official figures highlight a steady trend that began after the liberalization of Armenia’s civil aviation sector in 2013. The former Armenian government decided at the time to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline.
The decision allowed local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards to 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 since then.
This has translated into lower ticket prices, one of the factors behind a similarly rapid increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting the country. The government recorded 10.5 percent growth in tourism in 2018.
Revazian said the growth in air traffic accelerated with the entry into force on July 8 of a Russian government ban on direct flights between Russia and Georgia, which was triggered by recent anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi. She said Armenia is thus being used as a transit route for Russians travelling to Georgia.
“We were happy to see the Armenia Air Company launch flights to Moscow 14 times per week,” the official told a news conference. “At the same time, Russian airlines have increased [the frequency of their flights to Armenia,] not only from Moscow but also Yekaterinburg and Saint-Petersburg.”
Revazian also announced that two leading Western budget airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air, are ready to launch regular flights between Europe and Armenia next year if they are granted financial concessions. She said the Civil Aviation Committee is already drafting a bill that would exempt them from a fixed $21 tax levied from every air ticket sold in the country. It also hopes to convince an Argentine company managing Zvartnots to offer the low-cost carriers discounts for airport ground services, she added.
Revazian personally negotiated with senior Ryanair executives in Dublin early this year. She told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in March that the Irish airline will “revolutionize our aviation market” if it does decide to fly to Armenia.