First it was the bread-eaters who faced price hikes, now it’s the travelers.
Over the weekend, state-owned Turkmenistan Airlines increased fares for international flights two- to threefold. The news comes at the height of the summer holiday season and not long before young people studying abroad prepare to return to their universities.
Prices for the famously cheap internal flights have also gone up, by $8.
The hot and airless Turkmenistan Airlines ticket offices in Ashgabat have been mobbed by prospective travelers distressed at the news of how much more they will have to spend on flights.
Under the new tariff system, an economy return flight to Moscow, commonly used by those studying or working in Russia, will go up from $280 to $670. The biggest spike is on the Beijing flight, where a return ticket has risen from $355 to $890. An Ashgabat-London return ticket now costs $485, up from $240, while the already relatively expensive Kiev round trip has edged up slightly to $660, from $545.
The last airfare hike in Turkmenistan was in 2008 and was linked to the introduction of a uniform exchange rate between the official and black markets and the redenomination of the national currency. (The old banknotes emblazoned with the face of the late President Saparmurat Niyazov were denominated in the 1000s and required the laborious counting routine still familiar to visitors to neighboring Uzbekistan, who often carry their cash in rolls.)
At that time, it was internal airfares that went up -- and not by as much. The cost of a flight from the capital to a provincial center rose from $7 to $10. With this week’s price hikes, a return flight spanning the country from east to west now costs approximately $60.
Remember those train wagons regularly stuck on the Uzbek side of the Tajik fronteir? Well, Tashkent is now drawing those borders up in the sky as well, and assessing fees for crossing.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have agreed to charge for flights transiting each other's airspace, Asia-Plus reports, at Tashkent's insistence. Authorities have not yet announced how much the fees will total.
Uzbekistan unilaterally annulled an air traffic agreement with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in late June, asking that pilots from those countries no longer begin descents over Uzbek airspace (prompting some sudden descents into Osh). Tashkent insisted that air traffic controllers from each country take responsibility for their own planes. Previously, air-traffic controllers would help guide planes over their airspace, a common practice throughout the world.
Analysts believe that Uzbekistan’s insistence on the new payment regime is simply another attempt to stifle Tajikistan’s economic growth. Tajik planes must transit Uzbek airspace on almost all of the country’s international routes, and often begin their decent into Khujand’s airport, in the North, over Uzbek airspace.
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