20 years of Civil Aviation Development in Azerbaijan: Achievements and Prospects

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In the past two decades, Azerbaijan has witnessed remarkable advancements in the field of air transportation, positioning itself as a symbol of technological advancements and overall progress. Thanks to the dedicated efforts and support of Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the civil aviation sector of our country has undergone transformative changes, emerging as a dynamic, modern, and promising industry. Since 2003, under the leadership of our esteemed head of state, this sector has embarked on a new phase of rapid development.

Aircraft fleet updated, route network expanded

From 2005 to 2015, Azerbaijan Airlines CJSC (AZAL) expanded its fleet by adding various new aircraft models. These included Airbus A319, Boeing 767-300ER, Airbus A340-500, Embraer 190, Embraer 170, and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Additionally, in early 2023, AZAL initiated flights with three new Airbus A320neo aircraft. In April of the same year, AZAL signed contracts with both Airbus and Boeing for the commissioning of 20 more aircraft, consisting of 12 Airbus A320neo and 8 Boeing 787. The introduction of these aircraft will be implemented in a phased manner. Furthermore, a recent collaboration with GetJet Airlines resulted in the leasing of three Airbus A320 aircraft, further expanding AZAL's fleet.

Since 2010, the Pilot Training Center, a division of the National Aviation Academy, has been actively operating. This center comprises theoretical and practical training departments, equipped with crucial flight simulators for the professional training of civil aviation pilots. Pilot Training Center caters to the training needs of pilots flying Airbus A320/A319, Boeing 757/767, Embraer E190, ATR-42/72, and Mi-8AMT helicopters. The adoption of advanced aviation science and technology in the flight simulator ensures the provision of the highest-level D certification, accredited by international organizations.

During the period of 2003 to 2023, AZAL focused on enhancing its route network as a key aspect of its development. By the end of 2023, the airline successfully increased its total number of routes to 57, thanks to dedicated efforts in expanding its flight geography.

AZAL's Strategy and Digital Development

In December 2022, AZAL signed an agreement with the international consulting company McKinsey to develop a strategic development plan. This plan, covering the years 2023-2030, includes several aspects such as fleet unification, route network expansion, and the establishment of an efficient flight coordination system.

It is worth noting that 2022 marked a significant year for AZAL compared to previous years. In the same year, AZAL achieved great success by reporting a net profit for the first time. Additionally, the airline fulfilled numerous obligations to both foreign and domestic creditors.

In August 2021, AZAL transitioned to the new Amadeus SRM (Amadeus Segment Revenue Management) system to optimize operations and profit within the company's policy of applying cutting-edge digital solutions.

In 2023, AZAL actively integrated advanced digital solutions to enhance passenger comfort. The upgraded website and mobile app have considerably improved the customer experience, offering more convenient travel planning. Concurrently, the airline placed emphasis on developing a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that takes into account passengers' individual needs, ultimately increasing their satisfaction and the quality of service.

Reconstruction and Construction of New Airports

One of the significant milestones during the leader's early years in office was the elevation of Nakhchivan Airport to international status in April 2004. In 2016, extensive modernization efforts were undertaken at Nakhchivan International Airport, including the implementation of telescopic walkway, an innovative technical solution aimed at enhancing aviation operation efficiency.

Ganja International Airport underwent a major renovation in 2006, resulting in improved infrastructure and passenger services. Lankaran and Zagatala airports were granted international status after reconstruction in 2009. Another vital development in aviation infrastructure took place with the construction of Gabala Airport in 2012, designated as an international airport.

The new terminal complex of Heydar Aliyev International Airport, established in 2011 with the participation of President Ilham Aliyev, was inaugurated on April 23, 2014. This terminal alone can accommodate up to 6 million passengers annually. Overall, Baku airport, the primary air gateway of Azerbaijan, can handle 9 million passengers.

Following President Ilham Aliyev's directives regarding the creation of essential infrastructure as part of construction efforts in Karabakh, Füzuli International Airport, serving as the air gate to Karabakh, was constructed and put into operation in a remarkable timeframe of just 8 months in 2021. Furthermore, Zangilan International Airport had its grand opening in October 2022.

After an extended period, national navigation systems' radio call signals were once again transmitted in the skies of Karabakh, being received for the first time by Azerbaijan's national carrier, AZAL. Simultaneously, construction is underway since 2021 for Lachin International Airport, to become the country's 9th airport and the 3rd in the liberated territories.

AZANS - Ensuring Safety in the Sky

In addition to being a leading airline, AZAL is also recognized as one of the safest airlines in the world. Azeraeronavigation (AZANS) Air Traffic Control Department plays a significant role in ensuring its safety. As part of Azerbaijan Airlines CJSC, the Azeraeronavigation (AZANS) Air Traffic Control Department meets the high standards set by international aviation organizations.

Notably, AZANS was awarded the 2022 CANSO Global Safety Achievement nomination and was listed as one of the top five most reliable suppliers of air navigation services worldwide. Apart from Azerbaijan, the United States, Argentina, Thailand, and New Zealand were also mentioned on this list. Azeraeronavigation (AZANS) Air Traffic Control Department of AZAL CJSC is responsible for providing aeronautical services for flights in Azerbaijan's airspace.

It is worth mentioning that in recent peak months, the number of transit flights over Azerbaijan's airspace has increased by 260%. Presently, Azeraeronavigation serves an average of 15,000 transit flights per month in Azerbaijan's airspace. This demonstrates that Azerbaijan's airspace is becoming more attractive for foreign airlines. Additionally, Azerbaijan is actively expanding its cooperation with EUROCONTROL concerning air traffic management and planning transit flights through the country.

Awards and Achievements

Under the leadership of the President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan's civil aviation has become a shining example of continuous development. In 2015, Heydar Aliyev International Airport and Azerbaijan Airlines were awarded 4 Stars by Skytrax, a prestigious British consulting company. In 2018, the airport received the esteemed 5 Stars award in the same category and maintained that rating in 2020. The airline also maintained its rating in 2018 and 2020.

In 2020, Baku Airport became the first airport in the world to fully transition to cloud technologies. A year later, Heydar Aliyev International Airport received the highest rating for its COVID-19 safety measures. Between 2017 and 2023, Heydar Aliyev International Airport consistently topped the ranking of the best airports in Central Asia and the CIS countries, earning awards in various categories.

In 2018, AZAL received the title of Best Regional Airline in Central Asia and India from Skytrax, while in 2022, it won the Best Regional Airline in Central Asia and the CIS nomination.

Additionally, in 2020, the airline was recognized as the most punctual airline in Europe by the Official Airline Guide (OAG), an aviation analytical survey publication.

Since 2008, AZAL has successfully passed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) during the relevant periods, with the most recent audit conducted in 2023. This is a testament to the carrier's reliability and commitment to high safety standards in the aviation industry.

The support and initiatives of Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, played a decisive role in the development and strengthening of Azerbaijan's civil aviation. The upcoming years hold new prospects for sustainable development, and AZAL will continue to make every effort to meet the expectations of passengers.