Route Analysis: Istanbul-Yerevan

Turkey and Armenia are set to be linked by nonstop flights once again as the countries make efforts to normalize relations.

Credit: Getty Images/John Elk III

Turkish LCC Pegasus Airlines intends to begin a new scheduled route to Armenia’s capital Yerevan (EVN) in February after two years without nonstop flights between Turkey and Armenia.

The planned launch comes after leaders in the neighboring countries held talks to forge diplomatic relations after years of animosity. The meeting on Jan. 14 in Moscow was the first attempt to establish links since a 2009 peace accord.

OAG Schedules Analyser data shows Pegasus plans to fly from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) to Yerevan from Feb. 10, operating three times per week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays using Airbus A320s. The launch will add about 1,100 nonstop two-way seats between the destinations.

In addition, FlyOne Armenia has also put flights on sale between Yerevan and Istanbul (IST). The airline’s booking system shows service will begin on Feb. 2, initially operating twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. A third weekly frequency on Wednesday will start on March 30. 

Turkey and Armenia were last connected nonstop by AtlasGlobal until the carrier ceased operations in February 2020. Prior to its failure, the airline provided flights between Istanbul Ataturk and Yerevan from June 2016, later switching them to Istanbul’s new airport in April 2019. 

The only other carrier to have offered regular flights between Turkey and Armenia during the last decade was Armavia, Armenia’s defunct former flag-carrier which went bankrupt in 2013.

The lack of air service stems from a hostility between the two countries that stretches back more than a century to the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I, before Armenia became a founding member of the Soviet Union.

Although Turkey recognized Armenia shortly after the latter declared independence in 1991, the two nations failed to establish diplomatic relations.

In 1993, Turkey then closed the border with Armenia in support of Azerbaijan following the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed landlocked mountainous territory that is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani but is dominated by ethnic Armenians. A cease-fire was agreed in 1994 with Nagorno-Karabakh under ethnic Armenian control. 

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However, tensions in the region remained high and fighting broke out in 2016 and again in September 2020. The most recent conflict ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire in November 2020 that allowed Azerbaijan to regain control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding territory, with Russian peacekeepers on the ground.

Since then, relations between Turkey and Armenia have improved, leading to the appointment of special envoys in December 2021. The first round of talks earlier this month aimed at normalizing relations were described as constructive and further discussions are planned. The European Union and NATO have welcomed the move.

O&D traffic between Istanbul and Yerevan totaled some 66,000 two-way passengers in 2019, up by a third on the previous 12 months. The number reduced to about 11,000 in 2020 following the failure of AtlasGlobal, coupled with the effects of the pandemic.

SAW-EVN

Carrier:

Pegasus Airlines

Aircraft:

Airbus A320

Frequency:

3X-weekly

Start date:

Feb. 10, 2022

Distance:

1,274 km

O&D traffic demand (2019):

66,000

Annual growth (2019 vs 2018):

32.6%

Average base fare (2019):

$87.92