The FINANCIAL -- The total number of passengers served by Georgian airports amounted to 1,088,668 during the first seven months of 2014, up from 950,903 from the prior-year period. With 22%, Turkish Airlines tops the list of the most popular airline companies operating in Georgia. Georgian Airways, Ukraine International Airlines and Pegasus together make up the largest number of passengers. Meanwhile, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Poland are the most popular destinations for Georgians.
There are 29 air companies providing regular flights into Georgian airspace. Two of them are Georgian while the other 27 are foreign.
Ukrainian air companies have recently faced an increase in expenditures after the Russian Federation banned the crossing of its airspace. Representatives of the companies have stated that despite this they have not increased their ticket prices.
“We did not increase prices in foreign currencies, but even increased the quota of our seats available at lower prices. Of course, the price has increased due to the devaluation of the UAH and the exchange rate increasing by 1.5,” Lali Beshkenadze, General Manager for Georgia at Ukraine International Airlines, told The FINANCIAL.
“We not only are not planning to raise prices, but we are also actually trying to reduce them to attract passengers. The solvency of Ukrainian passengers is falling sharply. We were obliged to make detours into the airspace of the Russian Federation from 11 August. Accordingly, the size of the fuel surcharge increased in those areas where we had to change routes to fly over the Russian Federation (the list of those countries is as follows: Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan),” said Beshkenadze.
Another Ukrainian company, Dniproavia, cancelled its flights over Russian airspace from July due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. According to an official from the company, flights are now being made via Turkish airspace. It accordingly increased its flights’ duration by 40 minutes. The fuel amount also increased as a result. However, this has not contributed to increased ticket prices. The average price still remains at around GEL 400.
Georgia is the 7th most popular destination for Ukrainian passengers. According to the statistics of Ukraine International Airlines, the list of the top destinations for passengers flying from Ukraine is as follows: the Russian Federation, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Georgia, Austria, Kazakhstan and France.
Out of the top five destinations for Georgian passengers during 2014, the numbers of departures to Turkey, Russia and Poland have all increased. A reduction has been shown on flights to Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. In total, 82,472 passengers arrived in Ukraine in 2014, down from 84,870 from the first seven months of the previous year. The number of departures to Belarus was 23,981 during the first seven months of 2014, while the number was 27,254 during the same period of 2013. The total number of departures to Russia was 49,582 during the current year, meanwhile the figure was 53,394 in the previous year.
“The Russo-Ukrainian political instability and recent shoot-down of a Malaysian Airlines plane has made our passengers increasingly cautious. I would not say that the demand for Ukraine as a travel destination has sharply decreased, but there is certainly a level of fear present among our passengers,” said Ella Karapetyan, Director at Travel Agency BusinessTravelCom.
There are three air companies in Georgia that offer flights to the Russian Federation: Georgian Airways, S7 and Ural Airlines. There is still uncertainty over whether Russian airline company Aeroflot will set up regular flights between the two countries.
“The company is eager to set up regular flights. However, we are waiting for an official statement from the Russian side on which companies will be allowed to set flights,” said Alexander Gachechiladze, Head of the Transportation Department at the Georgian Civil Aviation Agency (GCAA).
With 75,657 passengers Pegasus is the fourth-top air company present in Georgia.
“In 2013 we added flights to Barcelona, Athens and Moscow which are all popular with Georgian passengers,” said Levan Elizbarashvili, Director at the Georgian Avia Service Agency (GASA), general commercial agent of Pegasus Airlines to Georgia.
In his words, Antalya remains the leading destination for Georgians, with Italy and Spain following it.
Another Turkish company, Atlas Jet, entered the Georgian market in October 2013. During the first seven months of the current year the company served 35,774 passengers.
According to the Georgian Civil Aviation Agency (GCAA), Tbilisi International Airport served a total of 802,132 passengers, both departures and arrivals, during the first seven months of 2014. It is followed by Kutaisi Airport, which served 134,148 passengers, and Batumi - with 104, 311.