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Guram Jalaghonia

Georgian Aviation Market to Follow European Regulations

The Georgian aviation market remains attractive for foreign airlines. According to the latest reports, the frequency of direct flights from Georgia to European destinations is growing.

In his interview with the CBW  Guram Jalaghonia, the head of the civil aviation agency, talks about innovations and the aviation market development tendencies.

Georgian citizens were genuinely excited by Wizz Air plans for increasing frequency of flights from Georgia to Europe. What factors have raised the airline’s interest in Georgia?

Do you think the airline would have expressed the same interest in Georgia if the country had not had perspectives for visa-free relations with Europe?

Visa-free regime with the EU is one of the encouraging factors, indeed. As a rule, airlines show interest in this or that specific country’s aviation market thanks to a combination of several similar factors.

In our case, these factors are: favorable geographic location, summer and winter resorts, visa policy, Georgian citizens’ huge interest in European and Asian destinations, valuable aviation infrastructure, liberal policy of air traffic, the aviation legislative framework – bilateral agreements signed about air traffic, mutual understanding memorandums, agreement with Europe on joint airspace, regulations and procedures developed by the civil aviation agency on admitting airlines to the market, SakAeroNavigatsia, the higher-level air navigation service enterprise and naturally, international standards for flights security and protection of aviation security.

The combination of the mentioned aspects with all other components raises the commercial interest in airlines on the Georgian aviation market.

Besides Wizz Air, RYANAIR airline is also expected to launch operation in Georgia. Both low-cost airlines will perform flights from Kutaisi Airport.

Do you think this decision will lower passenger turnover at Batumi and Tbilisi International Airports?

The Georgian Airports Union is conducting intense negotiations with Ryanair airline.

We should wait for the negotiation results. As to the expected impact of low-cost airlines on passenger turnover at Batumi International Airport, I would like to note that the interest in the Ajara resort zone grows year to year. Consequently, the passenger turnover at Batumi International Airport grows constantly.

The following airlines perform regular and charter flights in this direction: Georgian Airways, Turkish Airlines, BELAVIA, YANAIR. At this stage,

According to our information, this year the following airlines plan to perform regular flights to Batumi: Air Arabia, Scat, EL AL Israel Airlines, ARKIA, Dniproavia.

TAV Batumi, the Batumi airport operator company, the local self-government and the tourism department plan to draw new airline. We, as the aviation agency, make focus on safe and valuable operation of all international and internal airports in Georgia. I

n this respect we carry out permanent supervision and monitoring. We also provide professional consultations to all interested parties and provide overall assistance in finding required information, obtaining due licenses and so on.

I remember last year negotiations were underway with Ryanair and Air Berlin. Are the negotiations with Air Berlin successful?

I think the negotiator offices will have valuable information on the process. The civil aviation agency has not registered an application from Air Berlin, at this stage.

Do you expect any other new airline to appear on the Georgian market?

At this stage, according to the information of the civil aviation agency, two new airlines plan to enter the Georgian aviation market in 2016

Iranian airline Qeshm Air that has already obtained a schedule of flights and EL AL Israeli Airlines will also perform flights starting summer season.

Georgia will resume flights with Iran soon. Were these flights successful several years ago and is the current interest satisfactory?

Over the last years flights are performed in constant regime between Iran and Georgia by both Georgian and Iranian airlines. As to the interest of Iranian airlines in the Georgian aviation market, I would like to note that over the last years this interest really existed and this interest was proved by Ata Airlines that was performing Tehran-Tbilisi flights.

It should be noted the interest is huge this year too, as two Iranian Airlines ATA Airlines and Qeshm Air have applied to the civil aviation agency to obtain licenses for performing regular flights. We have already approved a schedule of flights to them and they have already obtained due licenses.

According to the spread information, Airzena plans to launch operation in the Armenian market. Currently, only one Georgian airline Airzena functions on the market.

This airline accuses the civil aviation agency and its policy of the problems arisen before it. What steps has the state taken or plans to take to maintain the only Georgian airline?

In compliance with the determined policy in the civil aviation sector, the civil aviation agency is to irreversibly protect international standards, recommended practice, international and bilateral agreements that are applied in the civil aviation sector.

All these efforts are to ensure safety of flights and passengers, open market principles, equal rights, strong guarantee of independence of pricing and so on.

I would like to tell your audience that initially Georgian Airways considered increased frequency of regular flights to the Russian Federation as a problematic issue, while this decision has brought positive results to the airline and its passenger turnover has increased, finally.

As to the second part of your question, naturally, the state tries and will always try to promote the private business as part of the rights and competences determined by the legislation.

On the other hand, we should realize that the aviation market players act independently in their own commercial interests and they determine themselves where, when and how to operate.

According to our information, Georgian Airways will continue operation in Georgia and will enter the Armenia aviation market too. I would like to wish all the best to our aviation specialists and the whole company.

Last period various information is spread that this or that company plans to increase frequency of flights to Georgia and this is very good tendency.

However, it is interesting what factors have intensified this interest, while we hear that the solvency of our population shrinks, the national currency is depreciating in relation to USD and EUR and Georgian citizens who receive salaries in GEL, have to pay higher price for air tickets.

We have already overviewed the factors that have intensified the interest in Georgia and its aviation market above. The issue of solvency of Georgian citizens is beyond the competencies of the civil aviation agency.

Based on the statistical indicators, I can say that the increased passenger turnover does not imply only tourist inflows. This also means passengers that leave from our airports to various directions and destinations.

What about cargo transportation? Is this direction developed?

Currently, only Tbilisi International Airport owns a cargo terminal in Georgia. Consequently, cargo transportation is carried out by only Tbilisi International Airport. The last period has recorded an upturn tendency, while the previous year has recorded a downturn.

Georgia has assumed obligations before the EU as part of the association agreement. What is the current situation in the civil aviation agency in this respect?

What steps should the country take to become a member of the European joint airspace? What will be the results from fulfilling these obligations?

– The agreement on Joint Airspace signed by Georgia, the EU and EU member countries represents an action document in the civil aviation field. Georgia signed the document in 2010. It should be noted that the EU has offered only Georgia in the South Caucasus Region to sign this agreement thanks to the liberal policy the government has carried out in the civil aviation field.

The precondition for enactment of the agreement is created by fulfillment of the assumed obligations, namely, embodiment of regulations and recommendations indicated in the agreement annexes (a total of 81 regulations and instructions) into the Georgian legislation.

The civil aviation agency provide tireless job to adjust the Georgian legislation with European regulations and our European partners provide efficient support in this process (EU Twinning Project, EASA, EUROCONTROL ).

We have fully established the airplane onboard inspection procedures (EASA, SAFA), under which flight security inspectors of the civil aviation agency carry out inspection of foreign airplanes, notification about aviation incidents onboard, joint EU regulations for delivering information to the interested parties and bodies, regulations for  issuing compensations and assisting passengers in the process of ascending the airplane, flight cancellation or long delay, regulations and conditions for protection of rights and assisting disabled bodies and so on.

In 2016-201 we will introduce other important European regulations, including insurance standards for airlines, regulations for determination of responsibility of airline for transporting passengers and cargo items (permanent appraisal of financial stability of enterprises) and so on.

After we have thoroughly fulfilled the agreement obligations, Georgia will have joint airspace with Europe and higher standards in terms of flights safety, flights supervision, protection of passenger rights, admittance to the aviation market, qualification of aviation specialists, organization of air traffic, security and other directions.