YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s national airline will likely start first-ever direct flights to the United States by the end of this year in line with a U.S.-Armenian “open skies” agreement signed in November, officials said on Wednesday.
The agreement, which entered into force on June 16, entitles Armenian and American airlines to operate regular flight services between any cities in the two countries. They will be free to determine the frequency of flights, the equipment used, and the prices charged.
Artyom Movsisian, head of the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, told RFE/RL that Armenia’s leading carrier, Armavia, intends to fly to New York and Los Angeles and will soon apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a relevant license. He said a team of officials from the department’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will then arrive in Yerevan to look into Armenian aviation facilities, safety rules and practices, and their conformity with international standards.
Movsisian was confident that Armavia will get the green light to launch the service that will allow thousands of Armenians traveling to and from the United States each year to avoid lengthy layovers at European airports. They account for a large part of passengers taking daily flights between Yerevan and major European cities.
“Unfortunately, all these procedures necessary for the airline to carry out flights [to the U.S.] are a bit slow,” said Movsisian. “They could take up to five or six months.”
A spokeswoman for Armavia told RFE/RL that the private carrier, which presently flies to 26 destinations in Europe, Russia and the Middle East, is already preparing to acquire a long-haul jetliner for the transatlantic service. “As soon as we get the permission, we will be able to have a big plane in our fleet that will carry out those flights,” said Nana Avetisova.
According to Movsisian, the U.S. side has yet to name an American airline interested in flying to Armenia.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, meanwhile, welcomed on Wednesday the entry into force of the U.S.-Armenian aviation agreement. “The agreement will strengthen and expand the already strong trade and tourism links between the United states and Armenia, and provide multi-million dollar benefits to American and Armenian carriers and the traveling public, while preserving the United States’ commitments to aviation safety and security,” the embassy said in a statement.