After months of negotiations with the Armenian government, the Irish budget airline Ryanair announced on Wednesday that it will launch flights between Europe and Armenia in January.
The company said it will initially fly from Yerevan to Milan and Rome four times a week. It pledged to open two more routes next summer: from Yerevan to Berlin and from Gyumri to the southern German city of Memmingen.
“These four new routes will further promote Armenian tourism, and will deliver over 130,000 customers annually to/from two European countries to one of Europe’s fastest-growing tourism destinations,” said David O’Brien, Ryanair’s chief commercial officer.
“We can service from 86 different cities and airports, whereas our competitors offer far less opportunity for Armenia,” O’Brien told a joint news conference with Tatevik Revazian, the head of the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Committee, held at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport.
Revazian negotiated with Ryanair representatives in Dublin early this year before announcing in March that Ryanair is considering becoming the world’s first budget airline to fly to Armenia. She said in July that the Irish carrier is seeking financial concessions from the Armenian side for that purpose.
Revazian said on Wednesday that the Civil Aviation Committee has drafted a bill that would exempt Ryanair from a fixed $21 tax levied from every air ticket sold in the country. She was confident that the government will approve the bill and send it to the Armenian parliament next month.
The government hopes that Ryanair’s entry into the Armenian civil aviation market will cut the cost of air travel and attract more tourists to Armenia.
Armenia’s international air traffic has already grown rapidly since the liberalization of its civil aviation sector in 2013. The former Armenian government decided to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. The liberalization has led to lower ticket prices, giving a strong boost to the country’s growing tourism industry.
Ryanair’s ticket prices are expected to be significantly lower than those of airlines already flying to Armenia.
“Ryanair’s average fare for all routes across the year is something like 35 euros ($38.5),” noted O’Brien. But he gave no concrete figures for its upcoming flights to Armenia.
“To celebrate the launch of its first Armenian airports, Ryanair has launched a seat sale with fares from just €29.99, for travel until May 2020, which must be booked by midnight Friday,” read a statement released by the company. It did not specify how much Ryanair customers will be charged after October 18.