Georgia is a sovereign state in Eurasia with a population of approximately 4.5 million. The country is bordered by Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan covering 69,700sqkms. Georgian Airways is the country’s national carrier which is based at Tbilisi International Airport. FlyGeorgia is the country’s newest carrier while Sky Georgia operates cargo services. Sakaeronavigatsia Ltd and Eurocontrol provide the country with air navigation services.
Airports in Georgia
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FlyGeorgia launched operations last month, emerging as the main competitor to flag carrier Georgian Airways. The new airline quickly expanded into the international market after launching domestically and is now connecting Tbilisi with Turkey and Iran. The launch of a second major carrier for Georgia comes as the country’s aviation market continues to grow with over 10 new routes connecting the country with other cities across Europe. The presence of low-cost carriers is also increasing with the expansion of Pegasus’ services to the nation and entry of Wizz Air to the market.
As a majority state-owned airline in North Africa, Tunisair has retained most of the flag carrier privileges that are cemented in the 1944 Chicago Convention, but those protectionist practices run counter to the present realities of passengers wanting choice and low fares. It is only natural that Tunisair defends its flag carrier status and historic market share, yet its lax attitude to take out legacy waste makes it ill-prepared for an Open Skies with the European Union or other Maghreb countries.
Tunisair deploys about 70% of its weekly seat capacity on routes to Western Europe and it has a 55% to 68% share of all one-way seats flown between Tunisia and Western Europe depending the high or low season. This is likely to decrease under an Open Skies with the EU and this in turn could lead to a further erosion of Tunisair’s financial results.
Georgia’s aviation market is expanding with the help of a proactive Georgian Government, which is seeking to transform the country into a regional transportation hub. In 2012 the small country has seen not only increased services from European carriers, but from carriers further afield in Asia and the Middle East. Georgia’s home-based aviation market is also set to expand with the launch of two new airlines, FlyGeorgia and Air Caucasus, in 2012.
The Georgian Government is showing much more interest in its national aviation industry having made recent commitments to turning the country into a regional transportation hub. Georgia, which is strategically located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, has a number of infrastructure projects under way which will see a network of modern airports built.
The Government has also made changes to the Air Code of Georgia in order to introduce greater regulation. Changes include the introduction of new standard working and flying times as well as requirements for fuel, maintenance and technical staff to be certified. The Georgian Civil Aviation Agency took comments made by ICAO auditors in 2007 into account during its work on the bill.
Russia, the CIS nations and Central and Eastern Europe have been receiving a great deal of attention from Middle East-based carriers in recent months. Full service and low-cost carriers have announced or added a flurry of routes into Eastern European destinations over the past few weeks. Airlines in the Middle East are looking to tap into the underserved region, which is still showing strong economic growth despite troubles in several European markets and strong growth in business and tourism traffic.
Homegrown LCCs Air Arabia and flydubai are leading a push into the regions, but so too is Qatar Airways. Additionally, Oman Air plans to launch services to Moscow. While Middle Eastern carriers have long dominated traffic into western Europe, they now comprise the majority of traffic between the Middle East and central Europe, eastern Europe, Russia and CIS.
Asia Pacific, particularly China, is one of the current destination hotspots for European carriers, with connections between Europe and China improving in recent months and over the past couple of years. The initial focus was obviously on providing connectivity between key European hubs and the capital city of Beijing, with services to Shanghai also quite extensive, although a number of carriers are adding service to secondary, albeit still large destinations in China, such as Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Chongqin, Urumqi, Sancha, Dalian and Harbin.
The overall numbers may be small, but the growth in seating capacity is spectacular from Europe to a number of emerging markets around the world this summer. Headlining this list is Slovenia, Tajikistan and Georgia in Eastern Europe; El Salvador, Panama and Colombia in Latin America; Rwanda, The Gambia and Togo in Africa; and Cambodia and Vietnam in Asia.