Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Air Transportation

The opening of the new arrival wing of the Zvartnots airport, designed to handle 2 million passengers annually, represents the culmination of a dazzling growth and expansion in air transportation in Armenia.

Indeed, the number of passengers arriving in Armenia nearly doubled to 575,000 in 2005 up from 293,000 in 2000 (see below and check here and here for more details).

2000 292,800
2001 375,900
2002 434,000
2003 458,500
2004 559,100
2005 574,700

Similarly, the number of foreign airlines carrying passengers to and from Yerevan has expanded dramatically as well. In 1994, an Air France weekly charter flight was the only hope for a westerner of making it to the country. Today, there are daily flights that connect passengers from four corners of the world to Armenia. Passengers have the choice of Air France, Austrian Airlines, British Airways (Med), Czech Airlines, Lufthansa, and Aeroflot, in addition to Armavia (armenian airlines), that make it possible to fly into Yerevan on any day of the week. Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Munich, and Paris, among others, provide travelers to and from Armenia access to the world’s premier airlines and destinations.

The changing face of air traffic is impressive, particularly when compared to that a decade ago. The flight patterns show a marked orientation to the west. But they also reflect Armenia’s sprawling Diaspora (see here). Destinations to various cities in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, as well as those to the Middle East, in many ways highlight the ties that keeps Armenians connected.

Notwithstanding the experience in passenger traffic, air cargo shipments have yet to take off. For the years 1999 through 2004, for instance, exports and imports tonnage totaled (check here): 13.5, 13.8, 11.4, 8.4, 8.7, and 9.2 only. (please help update this and other data sources). Is this a resource waiting to be tapped? Clearly, the composition of exports today makes very little demands on the airline industry (see here). But shouldn’t this composition itself evolve to reflect the availability of air transport?

Also, the seat factor is increasing but was about 68 percent in 2003 (see here). Recent figures may be higher. Nevertheless, it looks like planes are flying 30 percent empty. There are also significant flight delays – more than a third of all flights (see here).

Has anyone undertaken a study of the airline industry? This is an industry highly critical to the prosperity of the Armenian economy.

[Please write me if interested in contributing]

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