Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinian insisted on Friday that the government did not make far-reaching financial concessions to the Ryanair in return for the Irish low-cost airline’s decision to launch flights to Armenia.
After months of negotiations with the government, Ryanair announced on Wednesday that it start flying from Yerevan to Milan and Rome in January and open two more routes next summer. The announcement was widely welcomed in Armenia, with government officials predicting a significant drop in the cost of air travel and major boost to the domestic tourism sector.
Ryanair’s decision is understood to be tied to government plans to exempt the company from a fixed $21 tax levied from every air ticket sold in the country. The tax break will also apply to any other airline that will launch flights to new destinations from Armenia.
Some travel bloggers and public figures said that the government has also made other, more significant concessions to Ryanair. In particular, they claimed that it will pay for the Irish carrier’s airport ground services in Armenia worth around $80 per passenger. Such a subsidy would presumably require millions of dollars in annual government funding.
Avinian denied those claims. “We are not giving Ryanair any additional privileges at taxpayers’ expense,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Avinian said that the government is only planning some financial incentives for airlines that will fly to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city whose international airport is much smaller and more underused than Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport. He gave few details of that “additional support.”
Ryanair is due to launch flights between Gyumri and the southern German city of Memmingen in the summer of 2020.
The government also hopes to attract other European budget airlines, notably Wizz Air, to Armenia. Tatevik Revazian, the head of Armenian Civil Aviation Committee who negotiated the agreement with Ryanair, indicated on Wednesday that it is close to reaching a similar deal with Wizz Air.