Antony Price: “Fly Arna has long-term programs in Armenia”

29.01.2023 | 21:47 Home / News / Interviews /
Given the fact that Armenia’s aviation sector has recently been in the public spotlight, decided to speak with Antony Price, CEO of Fly Arna, Armenia’s national air carrier.

Fly Arna is a joint venture between the Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) and Air Arabia Group, and Antony Price has over 25 years of experience in working in the aviation industry.

Prior to becoming Fly Arna’s CEO, he worked for British Airways, Air New Zealand, Fly BMI, Air Arabia Group. He also worked in Los Angeles, San Francisco for 11 years and 4 years in New Zealand.

Fly Arna started operating since early July 2022. Summing up the past year, what can you underline and what programs do you have for 2023?

Currently, we are operating flights in five directions: to Moscow (Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports), Sochi, Tbilisi and Sharm El-Sheikh.

From the beginning of the year we have announced three new destinations: from January 27 flights are operated to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, from January 29 to St. Petersburg three times a week, and from February 7 two flights a week to Novosibirsk.

We also plan to expand the geography of our flights in 2023 and will announce new destinations in the upcoming months.

Many are interested in flying to Europe.

We are planning to enter the European market in 2023. Unfortunately, Civil Aviation Committee and all of the Armenian carriers are in the EU Air Safety black list. Fly Arna has applied for the exemption, and we are waiting for the audit to give us that approval to fly to Europe.

We are optimistic as in less than six months we have been recognized by the Civil Aviation Committee as the model airline that they would like other airlines to aspire to in terms of the way we communicate, the way we report, the way we manage our regulatory processes. We have succeeded to build the best team consisting of the aviation professionals and this will also help us to bring into life our commitment to operate flights to Europe. It is a significant market and today people probably are paying more than they need for the flights to Europe because there is not enough competition.

Talking about competition, are there game rules in Armenia’s market today everyone complies with?

Since we have started the airline we see more airlines base themselves here in Armenia, offering better flight options. However, for a country with 3 million people the number of airlines is a lot: there are six airlines and the seventh pending. At some point in the future that probably needs to be rationalized a little bit because it will be very difficult and challenging environment for everyone to operate in together. But so far everyone goes according to their own business plan and we are very fixed on what we want to do in terms of making Fly Arna the strongest airline here in Armenia.

In your opinion, how many airlines should a country like Armenia have?

It is a difficult question to answer because obviously there are airlines of different scale and size. But a country of this size can accommodate two significant passenger carriers and may be one cargo specialized carrier. So maybe three local carriers is probably a good number of airlines for this size of market, but I am sure in future we will see more consolidation and changes in the market.

What are the challenges faced by the industry and what solutions are necessary?

In general, the Armenian market is not an easy one. There a number of challenges we are trying to tackle with the Civil Aviation Committee and the Government

There has not been a strong focus on the aviation policy from the government and that is one thing that we are working with different ministries to highlight some of our global experiences and opportunities for them to look at the way we develop tourism and business connections through aviation.

In particular, it is about taxation of air passenger, relaxing visa rules for certain countries, and the way they charge taxation on aviation fuel.

You head a national air carrier which is both a great honor and a huge responsibility.

You are right, it is a very significant responsibility to come and develop a successful national airline of Armenia, and we are fortunate to have strong shareholders with successful track record in building and running the successful business and also provide us with clear objectives on what we are mandated to achieve.

I feel that we have done a good job so far in establishing the foundation of Fly Arna to be an airline that can be very successful in the future.

There are indicators and facts proving that we really take our status as a national air carrier with great responsibility. In particular, since we have started the airline no flights have been cancelled for the operational reasons. People of the field can state that registering such an indicator is the result of serious and responsible work.

I think it is a first time Armenia has a company with a lot of outside expertise that can support and develop aviation here. With the backing of our partner Air Arabia Group we have great world class training facilities in the UAE that we can use to train both our pilots and our cabin crew.

Using Air Arabia’s experience, using the partnership with ANIF we have been able to show people what a great value proposition Fly Arna can bring to the market.

We are here for a long term, we want to invest in Armenian aviation, we want to bring more aircraft, we want to open destinations both north, south, east and west and make Armenia into a great transit airline market, because geographically Armenia is very well located in the world to be able to flow traffic.
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