Another State-Owned Airline Goes Belly Up

Jan 17, 2019

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Some government owned airlines are the best rated in the world — displaying glitz and glam of first class suites, caviar, champagne and even showers in the sky. But there’s plenty more state-run airlines that fail to turn profit and offer disappointing service and products.

Tajik Air is the latest carrier to fall victim to financial ruin, as the carrier ceased all operations earlier this week. The airline was Tajikistan’s national carrier and had an incredibly modest fleet, flying 356,000 passengers in 2017. Tajikistan, a small country that sits on the Russian steppe is a former Soviet Republic with a population of 9 million.

A route map from the carrier’s website shows the airline was based in Tajikistan’s capital of Dushanbe (DYU) and flew to a number of Russian destinations, Iran and India — plus other domestic routes.

Competition from Somon Air, a privately run airline, seems to have helped take down Tajik Air. Somon will take over Tajik’s flights to Russia through the end of its winter schedule in March, reports Russia Aviation Insider. It’s the only remaining carrier in the country and operates six Boeing 737s.

Image courtesy of Eric Salard / Flickr.

Tajik Air fleet consisted of a Boeing 737-300, 757-200 and 767-300, and the aircraft had an average age of 28 years. The airline recently acquired one Bombardier CRJ 200, but it seems that it didn’t go into service before it collapsed. It also owned smaller Antonov An-28 turboprops and Mil Mi-8 helicopters, which served remote and hard-to-reach domestic destinations. The disappearance of this service could cut off a critical connection to remote Tajik communities.

Many airlines are still owned by their respective governments. Some of them are from wealthy countries like the UAE where the government of Dubai owns Emirates and Abu Dhabi owns Etihad, and Qatar owns its namesake airline. Other countries like Tajikistan are not as wealthy: it has a GDP of just $7 billion while Qatar’s GDP measures in at $168 billion and the United Arab Emirates at $383 billion. When times get tough for government owned airlines, it’s harder for more cash-strapped governments to come to the rescue of a distraught carrier.

Last year Zimbabwe, a bankrupt country, purchased two 777s for its national carrier Air Zimbabwe. But just a week ago, the airline suspended flights due to extended maintenance that needed to be carried out on its only aircraft. India’s government is attempting to sell off its stake in Air India, which is $8 billion in debt. Nigeria wanted to bring back its state-owned airline that it announced last summer at the Farnborough airshow, but just a few months later, the government suspended its launch for unknown reasons.

A handful of airlines still fly into Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, including Turkish Airlines and Fly Dubai. The country is a bit off the beaten tourist path but features stunning scenery, like Lake Alauddin and other secluded mountainous regions.

Featured image by aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images.

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