Why do Azerbaijanis complain about air ticket prices?
It’s no secret that flight tickets from Baku are expensive regardless of destination, and, in recent days, this issue has become especially relevant. What is the reason for this phenomenon and how do experts assess this situation?
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How expensive are tickets from Baku?
To check what has been said about the high cost of flights from Baku, JAMnews conducted a small study of its own.
We decided to compare the cost of tickets for a flight to Istanbul from Baku and Tbilisi on one of the popular international flight ticket selling websites. For this, we chose a remote date, about a month away, so that the date does not affect the price. As you know, tickets are always a little more expensive if the flight is only days away. We chose Monday as the departure day because there are usually more travelers on weekends, and this factor could also affect the ticket price.
So, we have chosen to depart on August 2 and come back on August 9. A Baku-Istanbul-Baku flight for these days costs $354. On the same days, a Tbilisi-Istanbul-Tbilisi flight will be about 2.5 times cheaper, at only $139.
Call from a member of parliament
During one of the last sessions of the Azerbaijani parliament, MP Ganira Pashayeva expressed her dissatisfaction with the high prices for air tickets.
She appealed to the management of AZAL (the state company “Azerbaijan Airlines”) with a request to make prices more affordable:
“Many people want to come from Turkey to Azerbaijan. We receive a lot of such requests on our social media pages every day. They write that they want to come to Azerbaijan but tickets to various countries of the world are cheaper than tickets to our country. Why are tickets so expensive? The citizens of Azerbaijan are also talking about this.
Azerbaijanis do not only go to Turkey for vacation. Hundreds of our students are getting their degrees there and their study abroad is very important to us. Our hospital patients sometimes have to urgently go to Turkey. Therefore, we ask that the airfare prices be revised. It’s not even for tourism development. Our youth should receive education, our peoples should get to know each other better.
I am addressing the AZAL management – make ticket prices affordable”.
Interesting figures from an opposition politician
Economist and one of the leaders of the Azerbaijani Republican Alternative opposition party Natik Jafarli cites interesting figures:
“On July 1, 2021, Wizzair resumed flights to Kutaisi International Airport in Georgia. The flights will be operated in six directions – to Milan, Prague, Athens, Thessaloniki, Larnaca, Memmingen (Germany).
I looked at the ticket prices for July 4th and 11th. For example, a ticket to Prague for the indicated dates from Kutaisi costs $165. On the same day, a ticket to Prague from Baku costs $694. The difference is $529.
Dear government, dear AZAL leadership, how long are we going to be jealous of ticket prices in Georgia?! How long, due to close relations with this company, do people have to finance it from their own pockets, and then wonder why it continues to work in the red and even receive subsidies from the government ?! Is it really so difficult to solve one single question?! The reason for such high prices is that AZAL does not only have a monopoly on flights, but also a monopoly on ground services”, Natik Jafarli wrote.
Tourism sector waiting for cheap tickets
Florian Sengstschmid, chief executive officer of the Azerbaijan Tourism Bureau under the State Tourism Agency, is also unhappy with the current circumstances:
“In other countries, air tickets are cheaper. If you look at the prices on the online platforms, you will see that the prices for flights from Turkey to Azerbaijan are much more expensive compared to the prices for flights from Turkey to Europe and Turkey to Georgia.
To increase the number of tourists, there must be a competitive environment. In this regard, we are cooperating with government departments, including AZAL. We hope that the issue will be resolved in the near future”.
How can the ticket crisis be resolved?
According to economist Nemat Aliyev, the state should carry out serious work to control AZAL’s pricing policy and prices should be brought in line with the social status of the country’s population.
“If you think about it, AZAL’s prices are very high, and accordingly, the company’s profit should be high. This profit is provided by the difference in prices and the number of tickets purchased by citizens.
On the other hand, AZAL is still subsidized from the state budget, the state pays for the company’s investment costs. In other words, the air carrier’s profits are not even spent on its own investment projects. An interesting question arises: where do all these funds go?
Another interesting question is how do the airlines of other countries survive? If their prices are much cheaper, and besides, these companies pursue an investment policy independent of the state but still manage to stay afloat.
Then, a rather strange picture emerges: what is AZAL doing?”, the economist asks.
The expert is perplexed, recalling that many Azerbaijani citizens go to Georgia to fly from there to different countries because of the cheapness of air tickets. However, they do not use the airports of their own country.
Nemat Aliyev believes there are three ways out of the situation.
“First, the state must strictly control the pricing policy of the state-owned company. Secondly, it is necessary to create a competitive environment: other airlines should also operate in Azerbaijan and offer alternative prices. Thirdly, the parliament of Azerbaijan should finally adopt a law on competition. We still don’t have it. If such a law existed, the lawlessness of AZAL would come to an end”, the economist said.