by Arthur Yernjakyan
The reduction in air ticket prices in Armenia is directly connected with the launch of Air Armenia's flights and has nothing to do with the open skies policy declared by the Armenian authorities, Arsen Avetisyan, Head of Air Armenia, has told ArmInfo's correspondent when commenting on the recent statement of Arman Khachatryan, CEO of the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia.
To note, during the Dec 10 press conference Khachatryan said that the prices of air tickets have dropped regardless of the operation of an Armenian air company in the country. "You shouldn't ascribe our activity's results to you", Avetisyan said. "The prices of air tickets in Armenia started dropping only after Air Armenia announced its intention to make flights to certain destinations. After Air Armenia started selling Yerevan-Moscow-Yerevan air tickets, Aeroflot (Russia) and S7 (Russia) immediately reduced their prices by 40%. Unprecedentedly low prices were also set for the flights en route Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Sochi and back after Air Armenia began selling tickets to these destinations. An air ticket to these destinations costs 29 thsd AMD, excluding the duties. Such prices have never been offered for these flights, Avetisyan said.
"Until very recently, air tickets for Yerevan-Dubai-Yerevan cost $1200, and after Air Armenia had announced the launch of flights to the same destination the prices dropped to $800. "Moreover, there had been certain competition in all these markets before we emerged in the market. Let Mr.Khachatryan bring at least one example of the fact that the air ticket prices had fallen to a certain extent before our company launched its flights. Theoretically, there is competition between the European air companies as well, however, I have not noticed any reduction in prices yet. I am sure that if Air Armenia announces the launch of flights to Europe, the prices will start dropping within hours. No one in the world, especially no foreign air companies are interested in presence of a local air carrier in Armenia, because the Armenian market is a titbit for development of hubs in their base airports. Some people bring grist to the mill of foreign air companies either unintentionally or intentionally. Some say that Armenia needs no local carriers", he said.
He said that nobody can be more interested in developing tourism and economy in Armenia than a local carrier. "For six months already we have been taking specific steps and investing big money to attract Russian tourists to Armenian resorts. We have already attracted some to Tsaghkadzor for skiing. We would not like anybody to ascribe our achievements in this field to the open skies policy. My personal view is that everything possible is being done to leave Armenia without own connections with the outer world," Avetisyan said.
He agreed to give a special interview concerning the last recommendations of McKensey and the open skies policy.
Acting as cargo carrier only since 2003, Air Armenia began carrying passengers after the end of Armavia's monopoly. The company carried out its first passenger charter flight to Rostov-on-Don on Oct 3 2013 and the first regular flight to Moscow on Oct 27 2013. Air Armenia has two planes: Boeing 737-500 and Airbus 320. By the end of 2014 the company is planning to have five planes.