Thursday, 30 May 2013

Interview: Bijan Mougouee, FlyGeorgia CEO

FlyGeorgia targets London route launch this year

FlyGeorgia is hopeful of launching flights to London as soon as this autumn, with either Luton or Stansted airport seen as the optimal UK gateway for the Georgian start-up carrier.

"We were planning for this summer, which didn't happen, so we have to postpone it until September onwards," chief executive Bijan Mougouee tells Flightglobal.

Tbilisi-based FlyGeorgia's existing network comprises Brussels, Dusseldorf, Kiev, Dubai, Erbil, Tehran, Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh. Some of its routes are codeshares operated by flag carrier Georgian Airways.

Mougouee says that other European destinations on his wish-list include Stockholm, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Athens and Cyprus.

The privately-owned Georgian carrier is also continuing its efforts to launch flights to the Indian city of Delhi, as well as holding negotiations with airports in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq.

A Baghdad route launch is likely in the near future, Mougouee says, though he adds that it will be a codeshare service operated by Georgian Airways.

Longer-term, FlyGeorgia's strategic goal is to develop Tbilisi into a hub bridging destinations in the Middle East and Europe.

"We have a clear strategy of connecting south to north via Tbilisi," Mougouee says, citing the potential for routes such as Dusseldorf-Tbilisi-Baghdad. "We are focussing on that transit traffic via Tbilisi on top of the point-to-point connections which exist."

Successful launches in London and Delhi would further strengthen Tbilisi's hub proposition, he says.

However, with no plans to expand the fleet beyond two Airbus A319s and one A320, much of the growth will be deferred until late 2014 onwards. "We have only three aircraft, so we may dream of going to many destinations, but we are limited," Mougouee acknowledges.

He adds that FlyGeorgia expects to benefit from the collapse of Armenian flag carrier Armavia, particularly given Georgian Airways' upcoming twice-daily service to the Armenian capital Yerevan.

But efforts to turn Tbilisi into the main hub in the Caucasus will also face competition from Baku-based Azerbaijan Airways.