Georgian Airways will not interrupt flights

Georgian Airways’ officials demand the meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili., 15 Dec 2014 - 19:23, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Airways is continuing to protest the recent Russia-Georgia contract about resuming direct flights between the two countries but announced it would not suspend flights to other destinations.

The Tbilisi-based company believed the current agreement gave an unfair advantage to Russian companies.

"Georgian Airways went on strike due to the artificial attempting company’s bankruptcy. We will continue the protest until our demands are met,” said Georgian Airways pilot David Nikuradze.

Airline officials have demanded a meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to discuss their plight.

Meanwhile on December 12, Georgia's Economy Minister said according to the agreement Russian companies as well as Georgian Airways would have a permission to enter the country and each were allowed to conduct 14 flights a week.

"We want national airline companies to have the opportunity of normal function and development. Georgian Airways put pressure on government staff and forced the Civil Aviation Agency to change its decision,” said Economy Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

Kvirikashvili believed Georgian Airways strived to reduce the frequency of flight permissions to maintain the "inappropriately high prices on tickets” which was against the main priority of the country to develop tourism, new jobs, hotels and transport systems.

However, Georgian Airways officials believed giving 13 Russian companies permission to enter the country and each were allowed to conduct 14 flights a week meant not only Georgian Airways (Airzena) but the whole Georgian aviation market was handed over to the Russian government.

The airline approached the Georgian Government with seven demands, including to immediately abolish a note the country sent to Russia on July 8 where the Georgian side gave a green light to Russian companies to enter Georgia and launch regular flights between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Some of the other airlines’ demands were to separate Georgia’s Civil Aviation Agency (CAA) from the Ministry of Economy, to fire the CAA leadership team, who were employed by the previous government, and appoint qualified personnel as replacements.

Tbilisi-Moscow-Tbilisi flights resumed in autumn after lengthy negotiations between the two countries. Last year during a special meeting between special envoy of Georgian Prime Minister on Russian issues Zurab Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin first discussed the issue.

Following the meeting the Russian inter-departmental commission responsible for authorising air carriers to operate international routes granted permission to several Russian airlines to resume flights between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Tbilisi-Moscow-Tbilisi direct flights were cut after Russia and Georgia clashed in the August 2008 war over Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia), a breakaway region of Georgia.

Since 2011, Airzena and Russia’s Sibir Airlines have carried out direct charter flights to various cities between the two countries, including Tbilisi and Batumi. However, the airlines’ required consent for each flight from relevant authorities before they could fly to their neighbour country, which complicated the process.