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Azerbaijan Adopts Open Skies Policy

By Nargiz Mammadli December 29, 2019

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Heydar Aliyev International Airport is the largest airport in Azerbaijan and in the region for passenger and freight traffic, as well as takeoff and landing operations / AZAL Press Service

Azerbaijan’s flag carrier Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) reached the next milestone in the national civil aviation history on Friday by allowing flights from the airports of Azerbaijan to 40 countries in Europe, North America, Australia, and South-East Asia.

AZAL will start applying the fifth and seventh freedoms of the air from January 1, 2020, thus opening the national airspace for stopovers and direct flights to dozens of destinations around the world.

“It is a global decision for the country as a whole,” AZAL President Jahangir Askerov said, according to a statement published to the company’s official website.

“Introduction of the fifth freedom at all international airports of the country will make it possible to expand the geography of flights from Azerbaijan, increase the country’s transport accessibility in the foreign market, as well as to realize the country’s tourism potential and provide competitive offers for passengers. Our citizens will have an opportunity to expand the geography of their travels and reduce travel costs to Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.”

There are a total of nine freedoms of air that define fundamental principles for commercial aviation cooperation between countries. The “fifth freedom” allows an airline to put its jet down in a country other than its own and board passengers before heading to the next destination, which is usually located in a third country. The “seventh freedom,” in turn, grants a right to a country’s aircraft to fly between two foreign states bypassing mandatory flights to its home country.

Under the fifth freedom, a plane operated by a European airline can now stop in one of the airports of Azerbaijan for boarding or disembarking the passengers prior to flying to any destination in South-East Asia or Australia. At the same time, an airline in Australia or in a South-East Asian country is allowed to fly to Europe with the same stopover in Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, using the seventh freedom, an airline in Europe can use Azerbaijan’s airspace to operate flights to destinations on its network without making an intermediate landing on its home country, meant to cut the distance and to save time and money.  

Previously, AZAL granted similar permissions to airlines individually. Now, the air carriers are not subjected to any restrictions for conveying passengers from Baku to France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, and Switzerland. The list of the countries also includes Sweden, Estonia, Ireland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Bulgaria, Georgia, USA, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, South Korea, Malaysia, and Australia. The document may be expanded in the future given the interest of more airlines to perform flights to Azerbaijan.

With an aim to attract more airlines to Azerbaijan after the application of the two freedoms, AZAL offered a 100 percent discount on the airports’ services. In the second year of operation, the discount will be 70 percent, followed by a decrease up to 50 and 30 percent.

Six airports with international status, including the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku and the air harbors in Nakhchivan, Ganja, Gabala, Lankaran, and Zagatala currently operate in Azerbaijan.

Heydar Aliyev International Airport is the largest airport in Azerbaijan and in the region for passenger and freight traffic, as well as takeoff and landing operations. The airport has "5 Stars" from Skytrax World Airport Awards and is also the best of its class in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, which includes nine post-Soviet nations.

Thirty passenger airlines from all over the world performed flights from Heydar Aliyev International Airport to more than 60 different locations as of November 2019. In the first eleven months of the year, all six airfields in Azerbaijan served a total of 5.15 million passengers, of which 4.39 million used the services provided by Heydar Aliyev International Airport. According to the government’s statistics, this shows a 6 percent increase than in the same period last year.