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Georgia’s Sky Traffic Shows Growth Tendencies

Published: February 18, 2013 | 11:29 am
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The COMMERCIAL TIMES

Aviation business in Georgia appears to be busy with innovations during the past few years. The number of passengers taking off and landing at Tbilisi International Airport was increased in 2012. Last year, according to TAV Georgia, in total, traffic indicator made 1 220 832, which is 15% growth.

Tbilisi International Airport has been operated by TAV Georgia since October 2005. TAV Airports Holding had the rights to operate Tbilisi International Airport for 20 years. However, due to the decision made Georgia’s previous government, the contract was prolonged till November, 2037. Instead, TAV Georgia would rehabilitate airport’s new F category runway. Currently, the country’s new government has terminated the project.

“Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia has stopped the project since the memorandum is being revised. We again confirm our readiness to invest in the rehabilitation of the new runway. If the Ministry is willing to implement this project itself, we will welcome this decision as well. The main point here is that Tbilisi International Airport will have a new runway, which will serve all types of aircrafts and  thus, will increase the number of flights and passengers,” Mete Erkal, General Manager of TAV Georgia, told CT.

Currently, 22 international (Air Astana, Aegean Airlines, Air Baltic, Alitalia, ATA Air, Azerbaijan Airlines, Belavia, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, Czech Airlines, Fly Dubai, Kenn Borek Air, Lot Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Pegasus airlines, Qatar Airways, Scat Air, S7/Siberian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines, Ural Airlines and UT Air Ukraine) and 2 local (Airzena/ Georgian Airways and  Fly Georgia) air companies conduct flights at Tbilisi International Airport.

According to TAV Georgia, growth tendency was maintained at Batumi International Airport as well, which was reflected in 26% increase.

Starting operating Tbilisi International Airport since 2005, TAV Airports continued its investment in the region and assumed the operation of the Batumi International Airport in May 2007. With its new runway, taxi route, apron and terminal building, Batumi International Airport is being operated by TAV Batumi Operations LLC, which is the subsidiary of TAV Airports Holding for 20 years.

Passenger Capacity of Batumi International Airport is 562,500pax/annum. Passengers here are served at 6 units of Check-In Counters and 4 units of Passport Control. Regular flights take off from the airport to: Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, cheap flights to Europe are conducted by Pegasus Airlines.

According to Erkal, in June, 2012 for the first time in Georgia and South Caucasus, so called Open Gate System was activated at Batumi International Airport. The system is created for the comfort and free movement of passengers entering the closed area of airport terminal. At the same time arrival halls were also expanded.

“Batumi International Airport is the first airport in the region, which simultaneously serves Georgia and Turkey with a new runway, parking, platform and terminal,” noted the General Manager of TAV Georgia.

Last year TAV Georgia was a success. In February, 2012 5-star airline Qatar Airways launched Tbilisi-Doha flights. Last June the largest Greek air carrier Aegan Airlines conducted its first flight Tbilisi-Athens. From July, 2012 Tbilisi-Rome flights were added by Alitalia. The same month UTAIR Ukraine started regular flights to Donetsk. Since August, 2012 national air carrier Fly Georgia appeared on the local market with flight offers both locally and abroad.

Significant developments took place at Kutaisi David Agmashenebeli International Airport.

Air carriers presented at the airport (WIZZ AIR, SIBERIA AIRLINES და URAL AIRLINES) conducting flights to Moscow and Kyiv, showed growth tendency in November/December/January.

WIZZ AIR will add flights to Kyiv, Kharkov, Donetsk and Warsaw starting from April 1, 2013. The company plans to start daily flights to Kyiv.

British Airways, a full service global airline, will leave Georgian market in April, 2013 again.

British Airways announced that the last flight on the route Tbilisi-London will be operated on March 29, and starting from March 31, the airline officially ceases operations in Georgia. The decision to leave Georgia was made by the British Airways for commercial reasons. The airline stated that Tbilisi-London and London-Tbilisi flights were unprofitable.

Earlier last October, British Airways restored Tbilisi-London daily flights after 10-years of stoppage.

Since November, 2009 Lufthansa had been the sole shareholder of British Midland Airlines Ltd. (bmi) via the British holding company LHBD Holding Ltd. Since then, extensive restructuring has been carried out to bring bmi back to profitability in the medium term. In December 2011 the sale to International Airlines Group (IAG)- the owner of British Airways- took place.

British Airways serves nearly 150 destinations in 75 countries worldwide.

FYI, British Airways ceased operations in Georgia in 2003 because of cancellation of tax preferences to the company.

In December, 2012 British Airways named Tbilisi one of the most in Demand Route in 2013. Rio de Janeiro, Las Vegas and Dubai as well as Tbilisi were named the most demanded places for tourists and business passengers in 2013.

Paolo De Renzis, the British Airways Area Commercial Manager, Middle East & Central Asia noted that the routes clearly reflect the needs and tastes of passengers in 2013: “Along with famous places, such as Las Vegas and Dubai, they are looking for something different. Tbilisi sights reflect our passengers’ expectations today and that’s why Tbilisi got into the list of 13 most requested routes in 2013. The city’s oldest part and the newly discovered tombs, sulfur baths, the best Georgian food and folklore are “must-see places” for the world travelers “.

UGAP Chairman Speaks about Problems in Georgia’s Air Market

Giorgi Kodua, after the bankruptcy of his air company Sky Georgia, launched a non-government organization- Union of Georgian Aviation Professionals (UGAP). The main task of the organization, in Kodua’s words, is the elimination of problems faced in Georgia’s air market.

“Wrong policy was run in Georgia’s air sector. A number of specialists of the field were urged to leave Georgia. I, as the manager of an air company, was forced to look for pilots and other technical personnel aboard. Along with economic development, I saw there was a potential for aviation sector to advance in our country, but it was not the priority for the government. This is why Georgian air companies occupy only 9% shares of the local aviation business. Foreign air carriers dominate Georgian market. The money that should go to Georgian budget flows outside borders,” Giorgi Kodua, the Chairman of UGAP, told CT.

One of the issues Kodua mentioned is the risk that Batumi Airport Navigation Tower carries. According to him, the problems around the Batumi Airport Navigation Tower started after the reconstruction of the Tower was completed. “More concretely, the Tower was added a firm iron facade panel, because of which necessary signals for conducting flights are lost,” said Kodua.

Another issue, in his words, is too expensive cost on air tickets.

Kodua said, UGAP has already sent several letters to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia depicting concrete problems to be taken care of: “There are some issues that have been left without relevant attention thus far. We’re motivated to help Georgian aviation sector develop.”

FYI, Sky Georgia got bankrupted in 2012 because of financial issues.

New Developments with Georgian Air companies

Recently Kodua launched a new air company Air Caucasus. According to him, the company is already registered and is in the phase of attracting investors: “We have several potential partners, Arabs and investors from Hong Kong are interested.” As the consultant of Air Caucasus noted, business plan will be approved as soon as investors enter the business.

GASA, official representative of Pegasus Airlines, plans to bring a new air company. As Levan Elizbarashvili, Head of Pegasus Airlines, told CT, the information is confidential, however, confirmed that negotiations are being held: “At this phase the air company is learning the local aviation market opportunities.”

Fly Dubai expands its network to Pakistan. According to Lela Khaladze, General Director of the company, new flights will be launched starting from mid-March to Pakistan’s two cities: Sialkot and Multan. Earlier in January, Fly Dubai added flights to Saudi Arabia: Maldives and Hail.

 

 

 

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