YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Ryanair is planning to become the world’s first budget airline to launch regular flights between Europe and Armenia, the head of the Armenian government’s civil aviation department said on Friday.

The official, Tatevik Revazian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that she has held talks with senior executives of the Irish carrier in Dublin for that purpose.

“We received a proposal and are now negotiating over that proposal,” she said. “They made clear that they want to enter the [Armenian aviation] market in 2020.”

“They said that the average price of their tickets is 40 euros ($45). Obviously, they won’t be able to fly to Armenia at that price, but it definitely won’t be 350, 400 or 500 euros,” added Revazian. She did not give other details of the planned flights.

“Ryanair can really revolutionize, completely transform our aviation market,” argued the 31-year-old official. “If Ryanair does enter the Armenian market I’m sure that air ticket prices will fall and passenger traffic from Europe to Armenia and also from Armenia to Europe will increase as a result.”

Armenia’s international air traffic has already grown rapidly since the liberalization of its civil aviation sector in 2013. The former Armenian government decided to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. Armavia had enjoyed exclusive rights to fly to Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East for almost ten years.

The liberalization, strongly backed by Western donors, allowed local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards to carry out flights without any restrictions. This has led to lower ticket prices, giving a strong boost to the country’s burgeoning tourism industry. The number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia reached a new record high in 2018, according to official statistics.

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