The Caspian region is now better connected to the Far East, after Turkmenistan Airlines launched nonstop flights from Ashgabat, the country’s capital city, to Tokyo. The first plane took off on June 26, bridging Ashgabat International Airport with Haneda Airport.
Turkmenistan’s national flag carrier dispatched its first direct flight to Japan on Wednesday, with diplomats and news reporters on board. A Boeing 777-200LR jet belonging to Turkmenistan Airlines returned to Ashgabat on June 27.
Officials from the airline say the launch of the new segment between Ashgabat and Tokyo will boost relations between the two Asian countries.
“We have studied all requests and suggestions on this issue prior to the launch and our estimations showed that the route will be very popular among entrepreneurs and tourists,” reads a statement from the airline according to reports by Turkmenportal.
Later this year the airline is planning to launch regular flights to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to facilitate Turkmen Muslims wishing to make the haaj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.
Turkmenistan Airlines is in the process of upgrading its fleet of jets so aircraft meet western aviation standards. Currently its fleet includes 19 aircraft manufactured by Boeing. In previous years, Turkmenistan purchased three Boeing-737-800 jets, two Boeing 777-200 LR, while in 2015 three more Boeing 737-800 were purchased.
Earlier this year, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow authorized new, more relaxed visa rules for Japanese tourists. Japanese citizens are exempt from paying consular fees and additional fees for getting visa during non-working hours, on weekends and public holidays.
Visa changes are just one of several steps taken by Ashgabat to build ties with what is the world’s third largest economy. Japanese businesses with a presence in Turkmenistan are mainly in the oil and gas sectors of the economy.
On June 28, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and state-owned Turkmengas launched a plant for processing natural gas into A-92 gasoline, in Ahal province. Japan’s fourth largest corporation, Itochu, and Turkmengas recently agreed to explore the Galkynysh gas block, located about 250 miles southeast of Ashgabat.