Recently-founded airline Myway Airlines has entered the Georgian aviation market with quite ambitious plans. By the end of 2018 the airline will launch flights to European countries.
In his interview with AviaNews, Igor Aptsiauri, commercial director of the airline, talks about the company plans and operation details.
-When have you taken first steps in aviation sector? Why have you decided to continue career in aviation sector and what way have you passed to reach success?
-My career in aviation sector started at AirBaltic head office in Latvia in 2006, where I was “poisoned” by this field and still remain in this sector. I cannot imagine myself without aviation today. I have not met person in aviation, who would have left it.
I have also worked for TUI Group, which unites several sectors and is one of the directions in aviation. After this, I have worked in airBaltic for 5 years, where I gained experience in many departments and then I moved to Doha, to the head office of Qatar Airways. I am happy that I was the first person from Georgia and the whole region, who started working in head offices of TUI, AirBaltic and Qatar Airways.
-Does foreign airlines show interest in Georgia-educated staff and how frequently is Georgian knowledge and experience is exported abroad?
-Aviation is a rapidly-growing sector. New airlines are established every year, new destinations are outlined, passenger turnover grows and in this situation there is huge demand for pilots, technical staff and engineers worldwide. Georgia always had good pilots and technical staff and even today there is much demand for our pilots and technical staff and I am happy that in many famous airlines Georgian professionals reach huge success.
I am proud that many successful pilots, who have worked abroad, took decision and joined our team. Having learned that Myway Airlines was going to launch operation in Georgia, they returned to the homeland. If professionals are offered good conditions, naturally, they prefer to stay in homeland. Myway Airlines has managed to create good working conditions and helped many professionals return to homeland.
-Besides famous airlines, you have also worked in civil aviation agency management.
-As the first deputy director of the agency, I used to supervise 4 departments – transportation-transit, finance and economic analysis, flight standards, certification and inspection, airplanes compatibility and registration departments, which provide monitoring of the whole aviation system, unites a lot of chains. After 3 years I can say that I am happy I have gained this important experience and knowledge in terms of commercial development, monitoring and supervision of aviation.
– Over the past period information was spread in social networks as if the Civil Aviation Agency director had specially referred you to Myway Airlines to play the Kvirikashvili-Kumsishvili game.
-This an absurd accusation. On Georgian aviation market only one stable airline used to operate over the past 20 years, which has been performing regular flights for many years. Over the years various airlines appeared on the Georgian market, but closed in a short period and disappeared. These airlines had full monopoly on the market, offered high tariffs and were less competitive compared to other airlines. I returned to Georgia 3 years ago, but I used to receive information on the Georgian air market developments. To be frank, I have not met even one passenger, who would be content with the market situation, prices, services, schedules, suspended flights and other aspects. I believed that this problem would be improved, but in vain. On the contrary, airline were permanently criticizing the Authorities, there were also blackmails and they permanently expressed discontent. However, my experience suggests that the reality was absolutely different. There were frequent assistance in line with legislation and EU regulations. We have done our best to the market operators and amid ungrounded accusations. It is not worth spending time on this.
Today we have historical fact. New airline has appeared on the market with huge goals and the company has already started implementing these goals. Myway Airlines launched performing flights several months ago and passengers, who have enjoyed services of our airline, are content with prices, services and flights. Appearance of Myway Airlines has ensured healthy competition and this factor will further develop the aviation sector.
Both foreign and domestic airlines should endure this fact. They should choose other mechanisms of competition and should forget obsolete approaches of 1990s. The approach “Only I will be and nobody else” should be forgotten. Blackmails and absurd accusations should be ceased against both Authorities and private sector.
I am glad that after appearance of Myway Airlines other airlines also started developing, growing. they have also taken changes in management, in their attitude to services and staff. We have the same sky, the same homeland and we should cooperate for improving the market condition.
There are accusations that we “sat” on their directions, they accuse us of creating problems, while we have also faced problems. Certification process has protracted. In general, this process takes 6 months, while Myway Airlines has spent 2 years because of subjective and objective reasons. To be frank, our competitors have staged much pressure, they have not met our appearance with understanding. They are freightened when something new happens on the market.
When we obtained the certificate, then we had to take transportation-transit license in addition, while it was not necessary to take this license, because we had stared certification process earlier. Influenced by domestic competitors, the Civil Aviation Agency made us take this license without any substantiation. We had no objections to this. This is good for airline and we would take this license in due time. Moreover, we had one-month delay in appointment of regular flights. Barriers arose regarding certain countries. We have waited for appointment of these flights for a long period and this was to happen in 1-2 days. Georgia has no restrictions with certain countries, but even this process was delayed. There are certain countries, where we cannot launch flights even today. For example, Russian Federation. One more absurd accusation was as if we perform Tbilisi-Moscow flights. Myway Airlines was ready to launch flights in January 2018, but we managed to launch flights only in May, because of certain reasons.
-Myway Airlines had to apply to certain instances to find justice. After resignation of Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, have you communicated with the New Prime Minister and Minster of Economy regarding your problems, or do you plan to have such a meeting?
-Yes, we plan to hold such a meeting and the sooner, the better. Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze had engaged in the process earlier and he is aware less of more of the new airline and this project and according to my information, he backs this project. Naturally, all other variants are ruled out, because more and more airlines will appear on the market and this process will only develop the field.
-How much investment has the company made and how much investment do you plan to make by the end of 2020?
-Investment in the aviation field is an expensive project. It is a certain joke that if you want a billionaire to become millionaire, he should set up an airline. And this is true. Huge financial resources are required to arrange valuable airline. Hualing company has been operating in Georgia in various directions for many years and it has thought about creating the airline for many years and they have explored the market for 2-3 years.
Today we have two airplanes and we have put 50 million USD investment in them. Currently, Myway Airlines employ 120 persons and this figure will further increase by the end of 2018, even more so, in 2019 we will buy two new airplanes. For the next 5 years, we will replenish our fleet by two new airplanes. At the third phase of our development strategy, we will have 10 airplanes and the tenth one will be Boeing 777.
Performing flights with Boeing 777 will be a historical fact for our country, because this airplane has never performed flights to and from Georgia. Thus, Myway Airlines has huge and ambitious plans. At this stage, the airline performs three regular flights; Tbilisi-Kharkiv-Tbilisi, Batumi-Kharkiv-Batumi and Tbilisi-Tel Aviv-Tbilisi. We are happy that several weeks ago we obtained a due license for performing flights to Europe.
-Are you conducting negotiations with any competitive market? Have you already explored which European directions will be profitable for you airline?
-I do not want to make early forecasts, but we are already determined and negotiations are underway. It is not ruled out to add 5 new European directions. We also consider to add 2 non-European directions. I think in 2018 Myway Airlines will perform flights to 10 directions.
-To dismiss accusations, will Myway Airlines repeat competitor’s routes to European directions?
-Somebody will always make accusations. We are accustomed to this moment, because every time everybody fights them starting from airlines and airports ending with governments and international organizations. We follow our own plan. When selecting the new routes, we take into account every aspects, including competition, demand, our potential and other aspects. In this situation, we have selected 5 European directions and we will launch flights in mid September. We hope we will be able to launch flights to Russian Federation too.
-As to flights announced for the US direction?
-For the purpose of inauguration of flights to the USA and other directions, we need Boeing 777 and the corresponding US license and this process will take 2 years.
-In Georgia passenger turnover grows. There were statements about making Tbilisi International Airport as a hub, but we do not see progress in this direction. What are the plans of Myway Airlines in this direction?
-Growth in passenger turnover is an important component for our country. If we compare the current indicators to the 2008 indicators, we have made significant progress. Annual growth makes up 37-38%. To further boost the growth and development, our policy is to make focus on direct flights and develop transit potential in Georgia. Thanks to transit passengers, we will be able to increase passenger turnover to 7-8 million persons.
When our competitors accuse us as if we had sat on their directions, the aviation field experts know that only 3-4 directions are profitable from Georgia and the startup company cannot launch business with losing directions. We should perform profitable flights and increase their profitability more and develop other flights at the expense of these profitable flights. We want that 15-20% of passengers at Tbilisi international Airport be transit in 2-3 years. Therefore, we have absolutely different plans and we do not want to make problems to anybody. Foreign companies will not shape transit and hub in Georgia. Domestic companies should work on this issue.