Karabakh Gears Up For First Commercial Flights in Decades


STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s sole civilian airport currently undergoing reconstruction will reopen its doors in May for the first commercial flights between the unrecognized republic and Armenia in two decades, a senior official in Stepanakert announced on Wednesday.

Dmitry Atbashian, head of the local civil aviation authority, said a state-run airline has already been set up to carry out those flights on a daily basis.

Flights to and from the airport, located 8 kilometers east of Stepanakert, had been discontinued in 1991 amid intensifying armed clashes in and around Karabakh that degenerated into a full-scale war provoked by neighboring Azerbaijan. Since then, transport communication between the small country and the outside world has since been carried out by land, via Armenia.

The Karabakh government decided in 2009 to reopen the airport, severely damaged during the 1991-1992 war, and raised about 1 billion drams ($2.8 million) for its reconstruction from unspecified “charitable sources.”

Karabakh officials said afterwards that a regular flight service between Stepanakert and Yerevan could be launched already in October 2010. However, its launch was delayed by a longer-than-anticipated construction of a new airport terminal.

According to Atbashian, the construction work is nearing completion, and air navigation and other equipment is already being installed at the airport. The facility will be fully furnished by April, he said.

Atbashian assured journalists that flight security “will be ensured by 100 percent” despite the airport’s proximity to the heavily militarized “line of contact” separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. He warned Azerbaijan against attempting to disrupt the flights.

The Azerbaijani government has not yet officially reacted to the planned reopening of the Stepanakert airport. It is bound to condemn the development.

Atbashian stressed that security in and around the airport building will be “twice as tight” as at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport because of what he described as a potential threat of “terrorist acts.” “We are located in a dangerous zone,” he argued.

Atbashian also revealed that the Stepanakert-Yerevan flights will be carried out by a newly established Karabakh airline, Artsakh Air. He said its fleet of aircraft will consist of three Canadian-made CRJ200 passenger jets costing at least $15 million each. The official did not say who is financing their purchase.

It also emerged that a round-trip air ticket to the Armenian capital will likely cost between 18,000 and 21,500 drams ($50-60). By comparison, the current fare for a minibus trip from Stepanakert to Yerevan, which takes between six and seven hours, is 5,000 drams.


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  2. Ishkhan said:

    It’s magnificent, if “Security” guaranteed in the air and airport.

  3. Alec Baghdasaryan said:

    Congratulations to all Armenian around the world and people of Artsakh for making this a reality. This is a very important milestone in Artsakh’s history given the importance of an airport for commerce (both air cargo and passenger / commercial flights), as well as the impact it will have in more and more Diaspora Armenians visiting the many historic sites in Artaskh. BRAVO to Government of Artsakh…

  4. Armen from Shoushi said:

    I am living in Shoushi and I can insure you that this airport will be for no utility for us. Only expenses. I met the minister about this question. He explained that it will be 2 flights per days 2-3 days per week. Each plane will have a capacity of 70 place, so 140 places per day. At this time there is only around 100 clients of minibuses every day at the price of 5000 drams. Nobody is ready here for paying 3 or 4 times more to go by plane in Erevan. It will be usefull only for ministers, so paid by the state. Businessmen and VIP are already use the airport with helicopters’ flights.
    The minister explained that the public price is helped by the state who will pay to the company the rest of the ticket. But because no company will be ready for working on this line (where it won’t be enough client), I’m sure that they ever took an agreement to insure the company a minimum incomes. So this airport wil bring nothing more that new expenses for our state, who ever accumulate only from 1995 an external debt of more than 250% of the GDP.
    And with this money, wil could do so many works, and so many, that no one outside could not image: repairation of all worse roads of Artsakh, resolution of drinking water in all villages that they have no water, resolving of electricity questions of the last 12 villages that they have still no electricity… And all these works cost not more than 1 billion drams…

    • Hye-phenated said:

      Armen, I hope things will improve soon and the number of passengers will increase with time. Think strategically – there will be more tourists who will bring more money to Artsakh. What would they prefer a seven hour drive in a minivan or a 30 min flight? Plus Cargo – instead of sending Artsakh exports via Georgia they can be delivered directly to Western markets – this is much cheaper I’m sure because Georgians would charge more for their part of the route then the entire cost of the air transportation.

      We had a Teleton in 2009 to help Shushi reconstruction and my kids and I donated some money – just curious – do you see any improvements?

      In 2010 Teleton we donated to water projects in Artsakh – I hope these villages you are writing about will get the water.

      Each Teleton collect about $20 million – what would you suggest as a project for the next one in November 2011?

  5. papken hartunian said:

    I thank you those Armenians who have anything to do with this landmark project. I hope the Artsakh Airport will be open on May 9 which is the day of liberation of Shushi and my birthday as well.

  6. Raffi said:

    This is all great, but perhaps more than necessary. Isn’t one plane enough for flights to Yerevan and back? Why 3? And the new building looks nice, but couldn’t it have been much smaller and plainer for the purpose it will serve? Seems like much of the money could have been invested in other projects. Sorry, I know, everyone’s a critic, so I’ll be quiet now. It does look quite nice and it will be awesome to take Artsakh Air flights. I hope they expand and go international.

  7. Cristina said:

    I don’t argue about the utility. But i wish they would make the ticket cheaper – i can bet with anyone that neither an ordinary Armenian from Armenia nor an Artsakhtsi will be able to afford it – 4 times the price of an usual bus ticket (5.000drams) and 2 times the price of a taxi (10.000drams) .
    There were talks about 17.000drams/flight, that is 46$, now i have it confirmed that a ticket will be 20.000drams, that is 55$.
    There are alot of people who are forced to live with 55$ a month in Artsakh…

  8. ARA said:

    EXCELLENT-this is a necessary vein for our country and people. It is not for everyone. It can be used by the military, business people, TOURISM-the $$ will roll in and the countries will prosper. Baku will attempt to destroy along with their bretheren in turkey-what else is new? This air service is vital. It will benefit all Armenians-when we visit-we and many others plan to fly there-maybe drive back for the scenery. Good job Armenia-govt. WE SUPPORT U LOUD AND CLEAR-not just words and money- Supplies will flow in and jobs will rise.