The Budapest-based budget airline Wizz Air announced on Monday that it will launch two twice-weekly flights between Europe and Armenia in April.
Wizz Air said it will initially fly to Yerevan from Vienna and Vilnius. “You can already book tickets,” its corporate communications manager, Andras Rado, told reporters in the Armenian capital.
“We plant to fly to more [Armenia-Europe] routes,” Rado said at a joint news conference with Tatevik Revazian, head of Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee.
Wizz Air is the second European low-cost airline that has decided to fly to Armenia. The Irish carrier Ryanair announced in October that it will start flying to Yerevan from Milan and Rome in January and open two more routes next summer. The move was widely welcomed in Armenia, with government officials predicting a significant drop in the cost of air travel and major boost to the country’s tourism sector.
The Armenian government’s reaction to Wizz Air’s announcement was just as positive. “This is an important development that will help to increase the number of tourists visiting Armenia in 2020,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian wrote on Facebook.
The government appears to have attracted both low-cost airlines with a pledge to exempt them from a fixed $21 tax levied from every air ticket sold in Armenia. The planned tax break would also apply to any other airline launching flights to new destinations from Yerevan or Gyumri.
The Armenian parliament began debating a relevant government bill earlier this month. Many parliament deputies, including members of Pashinian’s My Step alliance, voiced misgivings about it. Some of them were worried that new entrants in the Armenian civil aviation market would thus gain an unfair competitive edge over foreign and domestic airlines that have long flown to Armenia.
One such carrier, Austrian Airlines, has operated a Yerevan-Vienna flight for nearly two decades. Revazian made clear that the tax break would therefore not apply to the same route planned by Wizz Air.
The cost of air travel to and from Armenia has already decreased since the liberalization in 2013 of the domestic civil aviation sector. This has contributed to a steady growth of the country’s international air traffic. The total number of passengers processed by the international airports in Yerevan and Gyumri rose by around 10 percent in the first half of this year.