20 years of development path of civil aviation in Azerbaijan – achievements and perspectives – ARTICLE

20 years of development path of civil aviation in Azerbaijan – achievements and perspectives – ARTICLE

Over the past 20 years, air transport in Azerbaijan has developed significantly, becoming a symbol of advanced technologies and progress. As a result of attention and care of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the country’s civil aviation has undergone important transformations and turned into a modern, dynamic and promising industry. Thus, in 2003, this area entered a new stage of intensive development in our country under the leadership of the head of state.


Aircraft fleet was renewed, route network was expanded

Between 2005 and 2015, Azerbaijan Airlines CJSC (AZAL) has replenished its fleet new aircraft models such as Airbus A319, Boeing 767-300ER, Airbus A340-500, Embraer 190, Embraer 170 and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.

At the beginning of 2023, flights began on three new Airbus A320neo aircraft. In April of the same year, AZAL signed contracts with Airbus and Boeing for the delivery of 20 more aircraft – 12 Airbus A320neo and 8 Boeing 787 aircraft. It is planned that the new aircraft will be put into service gradually. The new aircraft leasing cooperation with GetJet Airlines resulted in the addition of three Airbus A320 aircraft to AZAL’s fleet.

The Pilot Training Center has been operating at the National Aviation Academy since 2010. The center consists of theoretical and practical training departments. The practical training department is equipped with manned flight simulators, which are important for the training of professional civil aviation pilots. Thus, pilots of AIRBUS A320/A319, Boeing 757/767, EMBRAER E190, ATR-42/72 aircraft, as well as pilots of Mi-8AMT helicopters are trained at the Pilot Training Center. By applying modern innovations in aviation science and technology, the flight simulator provides a D level that is the highest in the field and has been verified by international organizations.

Improvement of the route network is one of the main directions of AZAL’s development. During 2003–2023, the total number of the airline’s routes was increased to 57 by the end of 2023 as a result of the work carried out in the direction of expanding the geography of flights.


AZAL’s strategy and digital development

In December 2022, AZAL signed an agreement with McKinsey, an international consulting company, to prepare a strategic development plan. The plan, which runs from 2023 to 2030, includes many aspects such as unification of the aircraft fleet, expansion of the route network and creation of an efficient flight coordination system.

It should be noted that 2022 was a landmark year for AZAL compared to previous years. In that year, AZAL achieved great success, making a net profit for the first time according to its financial statements. The airline has also fulfilled many obligations to both foreign and local creditors.

In August 2021, AZAL switched to the new Amadeus SRM (Amadeus Segment Revenue Management) system to optimize operations and profits as part of its corporate policy of applying the latest digital solutions.

In 2023, AZAL actively implemented advanced digital solutions to improve passenger comfort. The updated website and mobile app have greatly improved the customer service, allowing for more convenient travel planning.At the same time, the airline paid attention to the development of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, which takes into account the individual needs of passengers and improves their satisfaction and quality of service.


Reconstruction and construction of new airports

One of the important events of the first years of the President’s rule was the awarding of international status to Nakhchivan Airport in April 2004. In 2016, work was carried out to modernize Nakhchivan International Airport, including the installation of telescopic gangways, an innovative technical solution that helps improve the efficiency of aviation operations.

In 2006, Ganja International Airport underwent a major reconstruction, which improved the infrastructure and passenger service level. After reconstruction in 2009, Lankaran and Zagatala airports received international status. Another important stage in the development of aviation infrastructure is the construction of Gabala airport in 2012 and its recognition as an international airport.

The new terminal complex of Heydar Aliyev International Airport, founded in 2011 with the participation of President Ilham Aliyev, was inaugurated on 23 April 2014. This terminal alone can serve 6 million passengers per year. Overall, Baku Airport, which is the main air gateway of Azerbaijan, is capable of handling 9 million passengers.

In accordance with the relevant order of President Ilham Aliyev to create the most necessary infrastructure within the framework of construction work in Karabakh, Fuzuli International Airport was successfully completed and put into operation in 2021. The airport, which is considered to be the air gate of Karabakh, was built in record time of only 8 months. In addition, the Zangilan International Airport was inaugurated in October 2022.

After many years, the radio call signs of the national navigation systems were again transmitted in the skies of Karabakh and for the first time were received by the aircraft of Azerbaijan’s national air carrier AZAL. At the same time, Lachin International Airport has been under construction since 2021, which will be the 9th airport in the country and the 3rd airport in the liberated lands.


AZANS – provider of safety in the sky

In addition to being a leading airline, AZAL is also recognized as one of the safest airlines in the world. The Azeraeronavigation Air Traffic Control Department (AZANS) is among the guarantors of its safety. AZANS, which is a part of Azerbaijan Airlines CJSC, meets the requirements of all international aviation organizations at a high level.

If we pay attention to AZANS’ activities, in 2022 it won the CANSO Global Safety Achievement Award and was included in the list of the top 5 most reliable air navigation service providers in the world. Apart from Azerbaijan, the list also includes the USA, Argentina, Thailand and New Zealand. AZANS is the body responsible for aviation services of flights in the airspace of Azerbaijan.

It should be noted that the growth of transit flights through the airspace of the country during the peak months was 260%. Today AZANS serves an average of 15 thousand transit flights per month in the airspace of Azerbaijan. This once again shows that Azerbaijan’s airspace is more attractive for foreign airlines. Azerbaijan is also dynamically expanding its cooperation with EUROCONTROL in the field of air traffic management and planning of transit flights through the country.


Awards and achievements

Under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s civil aviation has become a vivid example of continuous development. In 2015, Heydar Aliyev International Airport and Azerbaijan Airlines were awarded 4 -Star rating by the prestigious British consulting company Skytrax. The airport won the prestigious 5-Star award in the same category in 2018 and confirmed this rating in 2020. The airline confirmed its rating in 2018 and 2020.

In 2020, Baku Airport became the first airport in the world to completely switch to cloud technologies. A year later, Heydar Aliyev International Airport received the highest rating for security measures against COVID-19. In 2017–2023, Heydar Aliyev International Airport repeatedly topped the ranking of the best airports in Central Asia and CIS countries, receiving awards in various categories.

In 2018, AZAL was honored as “Best regional airline in Central Asia and India” by Skytrax, and in 2022 it won the “Best regional airline in Central Asia and CIS” category.

In 2020, the airline was recognized as Europe’s most punctual airline by Official Airline Guide (OAG), an aviation analysis and review publication.

Since 2008, AZAL has successfully passed the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) in relevant periods, the latest of which was 2023, as proof of the carrier’s reliability and high safety record in the air transport industry.

The support and initiatives of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, have played a decisive role in the development of civil aviation in Azerbaijan and strengthening its position. The coming years open up new prospects for sustainable development and AZAL will continue to make every effort to fulfil passengers’ expectations.