Tbilisi: National Airlines partners for flights to Moscow

National Airlines partners for flights to Moscow

The Messenger, Georgia
Dec 21 2004

Airline leases new Airbus and plans expansion routes to Russia and
Middle East

By Christina Tashkevich

Last week Georgian National Airlines and the Russian Sibir Airlines
signed a one-year agreement to run Tbilisi-Moscow flights together
on the parity basis.

According to National Airlines, such an agreement is the first one in
“the history of the Georgian and Russian airlines.” As a result of
the agreement, National Airlines will run a flight from Tbilisi to
Moscow’s Vnukovo airport every day at 10:10 a.m. as of December 22.

According to the President of the Georgian National Airlines, Giorgi
Kodua, “we start working not as competitors, but as partners.” He adds
that this fact will have a positive effect in a quality of services.

Georgian National Airlines plans to service Sibir customers on a
Tbilisi-Moscow route with its new airplane, Airbus-A320.

The company leased an Airbus-A320 from the International Lease Finance
Corporation at the beginning of December for USD 500,000 per month. The
first airplane is set to arrive in Tbilisi on Tuesday.

According to the airline company, at the initial stage, a
Russian-Armenian flight staff will man the jet while Georgian pilots
receive training on the new airplane, a fact that has upset a local
pilot’s organization.

National Airlines announced last week that it looks for “experienced
and professional pilots” which would be trained abroad. The company
estimates that in three months a Georgian flight staff will be able
to fly the new aircraft.

In response to recent criticism in the media regarding the fact
that the jet is manned by a non-Georgian crew, Kodua said, “all
interested Georgian pilots are welcome.” Akhali Taoba reported that
Tamaz Gaiashvili, the president of Georgia’s other major airline,
Airzena Georgian Airlines, has long been demanding the establishment
of parity flights, but he thinks that the civil aviation administration
gives foreign airlines certain privileges.

New chair of the Civil Aviation Administration Giorgi Mzhavanadze
denies claims that the government invited foreign pilots to Georgia,
leaving Georgian pilots unemployed as a result.

“National Airlines will employ foreign pilots in Georgia as of the New
Year. The administration will control this process very attentively
and strictly, in order not to violate the time limits envisaged by
the agreement,” Mzhavanadze said at the recent briefing.

He also added that the agreement’s three-month period in which Georgian
pilots will be trained may be extended another two months if necessary.

After the technical base for use of the Airbus-A320 jet is created,
National Airlines plans to lease a second jet that will start flights
next spring. Until then the first Airbus-A320 will fly to Moscow,
Dubai, Delhi, Karachi, and St. Petersburg.

The lease of the Airbus is the second major lease this month. Last
week, Georgian Airlines (formerly known as Airzena) leased
two Boeing-737-500 passenger planes, also from the U.S. company
International Lease Finance Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary
of American International Group (AIG). According to the airline,
the leases are for five years.

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