Bernie Baldwin

Having just celebrated a year of service, Georgia’s MyWay Airlines is looking to expand by not just adding routes but by building its hub in Tbilisi. Following preparations which began in May 2017, the airline’s inaugural flight came on 20 May 2018, a charter service to Antalya (coincidentally linking last year’s CONNECT venue to the Turkish city which will host CONNECT 2020).

A key authorisation came on 23 June 2018 when EASA awarded Third-Country Operator (TCO) to MyWay, enabling the carrier to fly to more than 400 airports across Europe, says Igor Aptsiauri, the airline’s chief commercial  officer. As well as its Tbilisi home, the carrier also flies from the Georgian coastal city of Batumi. The carrier’s newest route opened on 26 April this year between Tbilisi and Moscow Zhukovsky Airport.

“We have two Boeing 737-800s and expect delivery of two more by the end of this year,” Aptsiauri reports. “The configuration is two-class with eight seats in business class and 162 in economy for atotal of 170 seats.

“We made the decision early on to be a full service carrier through a hub in Tbilisi,” he continues. “We believe we have the potential to create a small hub and have spokes across Georgia and beyond. While we are presently EU-oriented in seeking route development, we are also looking to China, India and the UAE to make our hub stronger for east–west connections.

“We have 160 employees, including cockpit and cabin crew, and have brought high quality people back from overseas to operate this new airline in Georgia.”

Aptsiauri was happy to receive a great deal of positive feedback from last year’s CONNECT in Georgia and believes it will add to the country’s growth efforts. “We have a key geopolitical location with a population of 4 million which is now ranked No 6 in the world for “ease of doing business” and is 16th on the ‘index of economic freedom’,” he elaborates.

Georgia has two working arrangements with EASA – a General agreement and the SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) agreement. “We’re also part of the European Common Aviation Area Agreement signed on 2 December 2010,” Aptsiauri notes. “Also, Georgia is an associate member of the European Union and we hope to be full members at some stage. The country has had a liberal aviation policy since 2005 and there are now direct flights to 57 destinations in 26 countries.” The home territory rival for MyWay Airlines is Georgian Airways, which began operations in 1998. The country has three international airports – Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi. “There is one more, but it is in an occupied region,” Aptsiauri comments. “We hope that situation is cleared soon.”

Batusi, as noted, is a coastal city (on the Black Sea). “It therefore has mainly seasonal services operated by charter airlines,” the CCO notes. “At Kutaisi the focus is on services by low-cost carriers. We have been seeing strong  growth at each of these airports and at Tbilisi, where Wizz Air has opened a base.”

MyWay Airlines has been backed by the Hualing Group of China, which has a 49% stake. “Apart from that investment, which gives them one seat on the board, everything is Georgian,” Aptsiauri confirms.