Uzbekistan considers the creation of up to five new airlines this year

The government’s draft state programme for 2020 includes provisions for the launch of up to five resident airlines and the reduction of handling fees at local airports

Uzbekistan airlines Flag carrier Uzbekistan Airways is currently the monopolist on the country's air travel market (Uzbekistan Airways)

Against a frustrating backdrop of the slow implementation of presidential reforms aimed at transforming the local air transport industry, the Uzbekistan government’s new draft state programme for 2020 includes provisions for the creation of up to five new airlines in the country.

If the programme is approved, Uzbekistan’s transport ministry and state tourism committee will be instructed to develop these projects before April 1. The country’s authorities believe that the measure will help increase the number of frequencies on existing routes and launch an array of services to new destinations, bringing the total number of flights operated by local airlines to 2,800, the programme projects. The proposal is for each of the country’s airports to launch up to 10 new international flights within the 2021 timeframe.

According to industry insiders, several private airline projects have been idling on the tarmac in the face of bureaucratic delays in the central Asian country, such as SilkJet’s intention to launch a first low-cost carrier, as well as the proposed revival of Qanot Sharq which, last summer, placed a soft order for three Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet 100s.

Earlier this year, Uzbekistan’s president Shavkat Mirziyoyev criticised the sluggish rejuvenation of the nation’s commercial aviation industry. The introduction last year of an open-skies regime sparked no major interest among foreign carriers and failed to result in an influx of international tourists. To support the open-skies initiative, the government is now taking some additional measures, including expanding the list of countries whose citizens may travel to Uzbekistan visa-free. It has also instructed the country’s airports to reduce their aircraft ground handling costs by anywhere between 30 and 50 per cent, and also optimise their charges for transportation of passengers and freight.

Earlier this month the government announced plans for the creation of regional airline Humo Air, which is expected to provide relief on regional and local routes for the country’s only airline, state-run Uzbekistan Airways.

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