AZAL set to Launch New York Service in September

AZAL plans to launch a twice weekly service between Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport using a 237-seat Airbus A340-500 but will likely deploy its Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the route; the first of two is due for delivery towards the end of this year.

Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) has tentatively set September 24, 2014 as the launch date for its first long-awaited transatlantic link to North America. The carrier has been exploring the launch of flights to the United States for a number of years since the arrival of two new Airbus 340-500s provided it the means to serve such markets on a non-stop basis.

AZAL plans to launch a twice weekly service between Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport using the 237-seat Airbus jet but is expected to add further frequencies as the route establishes itself. The route is likely to be later served by Boeing 787 Dreamliners; the first of two is due for delivery towards the end of this year .

The airline applied for the necessary permissions to serve the Baku – New York route at teh start of this year and has secured the required licences from both Azerbaijan aviation authorities and the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

“AZAL has already received a permit from the US federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to go ahead with the project. The experts of FAA have praised Azerbaijan's aviation safety compliance with international standards," said Jahangir Asgarov, president, Azerbaijan Airlines in an interview earlier this year.

"This will be the first flight from South Caucasus region to North America," he noted in the interview, adding that this will strengthen the status of AZAL as a regional leader in the field of air passenger transport. The airline expects to generate some energy traffic in the Business cabin and there is a sizeable O&D demand for Economy travellers.

The airline’s two A340-500s, originally destined for Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines prior to its closure, were delivered to AZAL in December 2012 and until now have been used mainly on its flights from Baku to Beijing. The carrier launched scheduled services with the type in May 2013 initially on routes to Dubai and Moscow before they were deployed on the Beijing route from October 2013. AZAL is this month also using the type to add capacity to Antalya, Turkey, supporting the strong leisure demand for flights during the peak European summer.

In our analysis, below, we look at scheduled demand between Azerbaijan and the United States over the past ten years. Over this period bi-directional O&D demand has grown 59.4 per cent, an average annual growth rate of 6.6 per cent. Over the last five years demand has been stable at between 24,000 and 26,000 annual passengers with the largest flows being with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Lufthansa via its Frankfurt and Munich hubs.  The largest US market is New York is accounting for approximately 25.8 per cent of the total passengers between Azerbaijan and the US in 2013, followed by Washington (15.1 per cent) and Houston (14.0 per cent), the latter certainly driven by energy links.

Data provided by Sabre

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