The 2018 ICAO audit results prove that the flights safety component has been significantly improved.
The year of 2018 was exceptionally successful for the aviation sector, Levan Karanadze, the recently appointed director of LEPL Civil Aviation Agency under the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia noted. This year the country has improved positions in terms of implementation of international aviation standards and surveillance and increased its general indicator to 87.64%, he said.
Georgia’s aviation sector is constantly developing year to year and the increasing passenger turnover proves the trend of growth in this field, Levan Karanadze pointed out. Namely, in 2017, for the first time, the passenger turnover at Georgian airports exceeded 4 million persons. Within January-November period our airports served 4 696 039 passengers. Growth tendency is recorded in all three airports. Tbilisi International Airport is the leader. At the same time, new directions were added to Kutaisi International airport and positive dynamics is recorded at Batumi International Airport too, despite seasonal factors, Karanadze said.
-What reforms have you carried out, what innovations were introduced in the aviation sector in 2018 and what are your plans for 2019?
-We have introduced new regulations for improving the supervision of air services, determining conditions for designing and operating airdromes and helidromes, for flexible use of the air space by civil and military aviation and so on. The Agency adopted new regulation on the certification and operation of flight simulation training devices. New Aeromedical regulations are also very important, under which in 2019 the Agency will carry out re-certification of the Aeromedical Centres in accordance with the EU standards. In accordance with the amendment to the Air Code, the Agency will have to undertake additional functions for registration of air fields and approval of obstacles within airdrome zones.
The Agency has established the department for Unmanned Air Systems and General Aviation. Starting from 2019 the department will work on important directions, such as the introduction of regulations for the operation of ultralight airplanes for the purpose of developing the General Aviation and amending regulations for the operation of unmanned aircraft.
We also prioritize transposition of European regulations into the national legislation. The agency established a department for the rulemaking process, introduction of international standards and EU regulations, which, jointly with technical experts, will intensify activities for the introduction of regulations under the EU Common Aviation Area agreement.
– Would you name the negative and positive effects on Georgia’s aviation market?
– In March 2017 a visa-free regime was introduced for Georgian citizens with the Schengen zone countries and this fact has made positive influence on the market development. The demand for European directions has increased and airlines have taken corresponding commercial decisions: Georgian airlines have added European directions: Wizz Air has offered several new directions to passengers. Romanian TAROM has entered the Georgian market. Lufthansa added new frequencies on Munich-Tbilisi-Munich route and so on. As a result, passenger turnover to European destinations increased by 60% on average, under the January-November indicators, and the number of passengers made up 901 172 persons. I believe this tendency will be maintained in 2019 too.
As to negative factors, this year brought financial problems to many small and medium airlines worldwide. Part of them went bankrupt or they have changed business models. This tendency was evidently expressed in Europe (Monarch Air, Small Planet, Cobalt, Air Berlin, Primera Air, SkyWork, VLM, ADRIA and others). Experts assure that the mentioned difficulties are related to growing fuel prices, growing passenger compensation liabilities, strikes, lack of pilots and so on. These and many other factors are relevant for other small and medium airlines and therefore, they avoid taking bold decisions of entering new markets or they revise commercial plans.
-What are your plans for attracting new players to Georgian market?
-Eight foreign airlines have entered Georgian aviation market: TAROM, Salam Air, Iran Air, Jazeera Airways, Kuwait Airways, Flynas, UVT Aero and SkyUp Airlines. In 2019, Air France and IndiGo also plan to launch flights to Georgia. The country keeps carrying out liberal policy in the aviation sector. The civil aviation agency does its best to foster this process. The country practices simple and flexible procedures for admitting foreign airlines to the aviation market of Georgia.
Alongside with the development of tourism, today about 40 airlines operate on the Georgian air market (47 companies operated in summer). The competition and entry of new airlines has balanced airlines’ market ratios. In 2015 Turkish Airlines was the market leader with 20% market ratio. In 2018 the airline is recorded among top three companies together with Georgian Airways and Wizz Air each holding 11% of market ratio. In 2018, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, in cooperation with our Agency, prepared new agreements with Saudi Arabia, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This process will be continued in 2019 too. New agreements will be signed to expand geographical area of air transportation.
At the same time, with the aim of promoting competitive environment on the aviation market, in accordance with the EU regulations, the Agency plans to adopt rules for the admission of the ground handling companies to the market. The mentioned regulations will enhance objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles and foster access to the ground handling market of all interested companies to carry out self-service or provide handling services to third parties.
We also plan to implement airport slot allocation instructions into Georgian Legal System to organize the unbiased, transparent and non-discriminatory system for slot assignment. Ongoing infrastructural projects will also contribute to the further development of aviation market, such as: construction of new passenger terminal at Kutaisi International Airport and new Air Traffic Management Centre, which will be fully launched in early 2019 by SAKAERONAVIGATSIA.
The year of 2018 has brought positive results for Georgian airlines. Georgian Airways has reached leading positions in terms of market ratio. The company has added new destinations. Myway Airlines has also appeared on the market, but shortly withdrew and maintained only one direction for operation. Why does this field remain unattractive for investments and why is it impossible that several national airlines operate on the domestic market?
-I assure you that we are interested in development and promotion of Georgian air operators. We are happy this year has brought success to Georgian Airways. As to Myway Airlines, I would not say the company has withdrawn from the market. The airline is just optimizing its destinations and operational systems and the Agency carries out monitoring of this process. In Georgia a total of 12 airlines hold operation certificates, that is, they are working airlines, part of them performs domestic flights, while other perform cargo transportation services and helicopter operations. International flights are performed by only Georgian Airways and Myway Airlines. At the same time, the growing demand suggests several Georgian airlines to launch passenger transportation instead of cargo transportation services. To this end, they must meet the security, safety and financial reliability requirements. Only investments cannot ensure success in aviation business. The major challenge is related to the lack of professional staff, not only technical personnel, but also commercial and operation experts. For example, appearance of another Georgian airline attracted certain part of professionals from other airlines, as well as from the Civil Aviation Agency. Tremendous time and financial resources are required for training and preparation of specialists. Therefore, besides financial resources, human resources are also required to launch business in aviation field and get established on the market.
-How may airplanes are registered at the Civil Airplanes State Registry?
The registry unites airplanes of various classes, types, modifications. Currently, the Registry records more than 40 airplanes. This year has recorded both registration and deregistration facts, as well as transmission in private ownership.
–What measures are carried out in the country to ensure the safety of flights?
-The 2018 ICAO audit results prove that the flights safety component has been improved, where Georgia has achieved significant success. Innovations are introduced on permanent basis for upgrading safety standards. New regulations for civil aviation inspection were introduced in December. As a result, we will be able to carry out more efficient and effective surveillance on the compliance with aviation safety requirements.
These regulations were developed under the EU standards. At the same time, starting from December 2018, airlines based outside the territory of Georgia, if they plan to keep their airplanes out-based for more than 3 months, will have to equip their aircraft with Tracking Systems to enable the flights safety inspectors of the Agency to carry out real-time supervision of the flights.
This year the Agency recruited a number of new experts via official job opening. We provide comprehensive training for them, with our own financial resources or as part of international projects, to prepare them as safety inspectors, as this is the very important considering the rapid growth of the aviation industry and market in Georgia.
-What efficient steps have the civil aviation agency taken to maximally protect the passenger rights? How frequently are the passenger rights violated, are the number of similar facts growing or declining?
-The Agency has introduced a full package of European regulations for the protection of passenger rights. The Civil Aviation Agency carries out supervision on the compliance with the requirements of this regulation by means of all existing levers. For example: to start regular flights, an airline must submit an insurance policy covering losses inflicted to a passenger, luggage, cargo and third parties under the EU-determined limits. Starting from 2017 the mentioned obligation applies to Georgian airlines too. As part of the inspection process, we examine how persons with disabilities are attended during flights and how their rights are protected by the airport operator and airlines. We have increased frequency of similar inspections. We also examine and react to notifications submitted by the Passengers. Although, it should also be noted that the notifications and requests for consultation from the specific mediator companies, specialising in passenger rights and compensations are more frequent, than individual appeals. As it seems, similar to the European practice, Georgian traveling public prefers to address mediator companies for the protection of their rights.