Airport services badly need improvement in Kyrgyzstan

The Manas international airport in Bishkek

BISHKEK (TCA) — Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Sapar Isakov visited the Manas International Airport in Bishkek on October 4 following numerous complaints about the airport’s work. Most of the complaints of Kyrgyz citizens and foreign visitors were about the conditions of arrival, departure and registration.

Isakov visited various airport offices and talked to passengers. He saw queues at the border controls, and that only one red corridor of customs screening was used, the Government’s press service reported.

“The complaints of our citizens and guests are justified. The border guard and customs services, as well as the airport management, should immediately start solving the identified problems,” the Prime Minister said.

The airport should not only eliminate long queues and introduce a green corridor, but also make the polite attitude to passengers a strict rule for the airport employees who should also study English as an international language. The Manas airport is the main air gate of the country, and people who arrive or leave the country should feel comfortable, the Prime Minister said. The quality of services and conditions at airports form the first and last impressions about the coountry, Isakov concluded.

Expensive airline tickets

Parliament deputies have criticized high ticket prices for domestic flights, and proposed introducing a restriction on the price of tickets for domestic flights. Otherwise tickets from Bishkek to Moscow and to Osh will soon be equal.

The MPs even suggested it was a cartel collusion. Several large players dominating the air transportation market of the country dictate their terms. Some airlines have monopolized the local market and artificially inflated ticket prices, officials said. It is necessary to find alternative airlines ready to open new domestic flights. This issue is of great importance for residents of remote mountain areas.

According to the Ministry of Transport and Roads of Kyrgyzstan, a working group was established jointly with the State Antimonopoly Committee to investigate the price policy. It is planned to set lower and upper price limits for domestic airline tickets.

Poor services

According to the Transport Ministry, the flow of air passengers grew by 21% compared to last year, and the number of passengers on domestic flights has doubled. However, the quality of services in the civil aviation remains extremely low.

For domestic flights, airlines enjoy 50 percent discount from the state for airport and air navigation services. In accordance with the Aviation Regulations of Kyrgyzstan, in case of four or more hours delay in departure, the airlines must provide the passengers with soft drinks and free meals. Passengers complain these rules are often ignored.

Poor services and long queues not only create inconvenience for passengers, but also negatively affect the image of the country as a tourism destination. The Transport Ministry together with the Civil Aviation Agency is drafting amendments to the rules for the quality of airline services.

Increasing investment attractiveness

Creation of a cargo and passenger air hub at the Manas International Airport will expand the geography of flights, increase the flow of passengers and cargo transportation, and improve the investment attractiveness of Kyrgyzstan’s aviation.

The country plans to sign a memorandum of understanding on the fifth air freedom for the perimeter of the European Union countries — South-East Asia — the Middle East and the Arab world. The interests of domestic air carriers will be taken into account and cost-effective airlines will retain their positions, the Transport Ministry said.

An important feature of granting the fifth air freedom to foreign aircraft is that no additional financial support from the state budget is needed.

The Kyrgyz Government recently approved an action plan to develop the civil aviation through a liberalization of the air transportation market. The Government tasked the Civil Aviation Agency (CAA) and the Transport Ministry to draft a bill on introducing amendments to the current legislation and to develop an Open Skies Air Code.

EU blacklist

Only two of Kyrgyzstan’s airlines fully comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards now. If ICAO audit is conducted with positive results, all Kyrgyz airlines will be excluded from the blacklist and will be allowed to fly directly to (and over) the EU countries.

Local airlines were included in the EU blacklist in 2006 because of the insufficient state participation in overseeing the flight safety. The ICAO experts repeatedly visited Kyrgyzstan to discuss with CAA representatives the possibility of withdrawing Kyrgyzstan’s airlines from the blacklist.

To comply with ICAO safety standards, it is necessary to strengthen the CAA financial and technical base and to improve the staff qualification. To solve the problems, money is needed, which the Kyrgyz civil aviation does not have.