Manas claims hub status

Photo: Manas claims hub status / Politics

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 7 / Trend /

Trend commentator Arzu Naghiyev

Following the suspension of the Transit Center at the American military base at Manas Airport, the Kyrgyz government repeatedly stated that in 2014 a regional hub will be created in its place, an airport, which will be used by airlines or airline alliances as a point of passenger transfer, where as a result, a high number of connecting flights will occur. Hubs are a part of the so-called star (fan) route network, in which passengers, while traveling between airports that are not connected by direct flights, can reach a destination by making a transfer from one flight to another.

As a result of a study conducted by experts of 'Lufthansa Consulting' and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, it was concluded that, in the next decade, international transportation between Europe and Southeast Asia will increase dramatically.

Despite, Bishkek's aspirations, it faces serious competition in the field. Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is completely renovated and can compete with Dubai airport.

Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan, which is undergoing a reconstruction project under 'Lufthansa Consulting' is another competitor.

Uzbekistan can be called home to another possibility and possible competitor. Tashkent turned a part of Navoi airport into a hub for mini transportation with the help of South Korea and it acquired new planes through lease.

What are the advantages of Manas compared to Almaty?

Firstly, the summer flight season lasts longer in Kyrgyzstan, which is one of the important conditions for airport operations. In addition, there is a difference in the price of fuel. While planes pay $1,200 for each ton of jet fuel in Kazakhstan, this amount only reaches $ 1,050 in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, reconstruction of the complex can reduce the refueling time of high-tonnage planes from two hours and forty minutes.

The Americans are planning to refuse services at Manas in 2014. Thus relevant projects and agreements with investors should be prepared and signed only until that time.

Despite the fact that the operation of the airport in the free economic zone of Bishkek is a positive, an obsolete fleet, as well as factors related to the large use of funds for repair and high fuel consumption keep it from being competitive. It will also be necessary to retrain employees in accordance with the requirements of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

Experts noted that it is necessary to build a second runway at the airport, which will require an investment of $300 million, a new passenger terminal, and a new cargo terminal with a railway line, along with other facilities. The airport will also have to be expanded by 200 hectares.

At present the Manas Airport is operating on profits from the activities of the Transit Center.

According to Kyrgyz statistics, the airport served 1.1 million passengers during the year. If it suspends basic activity, this figure will dip to 300-400 thousand people, and the airport will suffer a loss of $7.65 million annually. For comparison, the Almaty airport annually serves three million passengers.

As for investment in the project, experts are deciding between two options - money transfers to airport infrastructure projects from the profits of the activities of the Transit Center, or the creation of an international consortium of interested countries.

Implementation of the project promises a good profit for Kyrgyzstan. It is estimated that if the new airport were to work at full capacity, freight can bring a profit of $250 million per year, and maintenance of commercial aircraft would bring another $150 million.

These figures are rather significant next to the GDP of Kyrgyzstan.

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