The newest Uzbek airline, Air Samarkand, is on track to start commercial operations early next year, promising to contribute to the development of tourism and business alike in one of the oldest cities in Asia.
Being a key connecting city on the Silk Road, Samarkand is considered a cradle for trade, culture and science. The city with its ancient buildings has been referred to as an open-air museum. Splendid portals, vast coloured domes and remarkable exterior decorations in majolica, mosaic, marble and gold form part of its architectural heritage, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. With the new airline, visitors will have easier access to the World Heritage city, with direct flights instead of layovers in nearby countries.
Air Samarkand will help spearhead the future development of Uzbekistan as a new tourism, cultural, business and educational centre in Central Asia.Anton Khojayan, Air Samarkand CEO
“We have been carefully developing our business strategy for the past 12 months while concurrently recruiting an experienced airline leadership group and a talented flight and cabin crew team to deliver exceptional in-flight service to our customers”, said the airline’s CEO, Anton Khojayan. “We have an ambitious plan for the rapid growth of Air Samarkand, to provide direct, safe and high-quality services to a growing number of cities in Europe and Asia. We will quickly ramp up operations to drive visitor numbers to this historic region of Samarkand.”
Having recently received its first aircraft, an Airbus A321 and Airbus A330-300, the airline is on track to start operations in early 2024. The plan is to first start charter flights and then to introduce scheduled services. The first destinations connected to Samarkand with the new airline will be in Türkiye, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and China, with a subsequent expansion in Europe and the Middle East planned throughout 2024.
On 2 November, at 5:30 pm local time, the very first plane of the future Air Samarkand fleet, an Airbus A330-300, landed at Samarkand International Airport. The aircraft is designed to carry 277 passengers in economy class and 36 in business class, and, thanks to its fuel efficiency, it ensures flights with a range of over 11,500 km, thus guaranteeing long and medium haul direct flights.
On 11 November the second aircraft, the Airbus A321, was received by the airline. “Arriving in the wee hours of this morning, our new aircraft is designed to accommodate 182 passengers in economy class and 12 in business class, covering routes with a range of up to 6,000 km”, the airline said. The narrowbody A321 model will be used for shorter routes to nearby countries. Over the course of next year, Air Samarkand plans to expand its fleet with more A330, A321 and A320 models.
The new airline will launch as a full-service carrier, offering in-flight meals and drinks, large overhead storage for hand luggage and an inflight entertainment system (IFE) showing international films via screens built-in to every seat. “Starting any new airline normally carries some commercial risk. But for Air Samarkand we have an incredible range of assets at our disposal to attract leisure and business travellers, while our world-class schools and universities will attract global students to this region”, said Khojoyan, mentioning that Air Samarkand will keep prices affordable and competitive to other airlines in the region.
Air Samarkand is a part of a grand overall development project of the Samarkand region. A brand-new Air Marakanda airport and Samarkand Tourist Center have already been built and several other large-scale projects are also being developed.
“Conditions facilitated by the country’s leadership have enabled the realisation of Samarkand’s full potential. Most notably this has been by enhancing the city’s airport and providing more comfort for residents and foreign visitors arriving by air, whilst also boosting the connectivity of Samarkand through the development of new airlines such as Air Samarkand. Consequently, this initiative aims to unlock Samarkand’s potential for the development of tourism, trade, scientific research and various other activities”, said Bakhtiyor Fazilov, one of Air Samarkand’s founders, who also invested in the new airport terminal.