On May 30, regular flights began from Ashgabat to Dubai, and from June 1 to Kazan. To get to Dubai, a passenger needs to pay 6,700 manats ($1,914), and to Kazan 8,020 manats ($2,291). The prices are exorbitant and not every citizen can afford it.
We asked economic expert Annadurdy Khajiev to comment on this situation.
- How can you explain the high cost of tickets?
Let's look at what expenses make up the ticket price and compare, for example, with the cost of tickets in neighboring countries.
The distance that the plane flies between Ashgabat and Dubai is 1,448 kilometers, so 1 kilometer of flight costs the passenger $1.32. For comparison: the average price of an air ticket from Tashkent to Dubai is $260; from Dushanbe to Dubai - $240. A kilometer of flight costs passengers on these flights approximately 0.12 cents. For Turkmens, flying one kilometer costs 10 times more. At the same time, the flight from Tashkent to Dubai is 800 km longer than from Ashgabat, and from Dushanbe 500 km.
You also need to keep in mind that about 30-40 percent of the ticket price is fuel costs. So, at the moment, the average cost of a ton of aviation kerosene in Russia ranges from 750-800 dollars, in Uzbekistan about 900 dollars, in Tajikistan just over 1000 dollars.
The lowest price for “Turkmen” kerosene: the complex of oil refineries in Turkmenbashi last year began producing Jet A-1 aviation kerosene. So, the last quotation on the Turkmen stock exchange was $300 per ton of kerosene.
That is, logically, «Turkmen Airlines» air tickets should be the cheapest, since the distance from Turkmenistan is the shortest, and airline kerosene is much cheaper, but for some reason the price turns out to be “golden”.
- What criteria did the Turkmen airline use when setting the exorbitant price?
Some might say that they are guided by the dollar exchange rate on the black market (illegal rate). But even in this case, the price of a Turkmen ticket is overpriced and uncompetitive.
- Maybe Turkmens have high salaries, because Turkmenistan is a resource-rich country?
In Turkmenistan, the average salary is only 290 dollars (in Uzbekistan - 300, in Tajikistan -157). This is despite the fact that the GDP per capita in Turkmenistan is $8,843. This is the highest figure among the three countries we are considering: in Uzbekistan - $1,901, in Tajikistan - $839.
And now the answer to your question. Tickets are expensive because «Turkmenistan Airlines» is a state-owned company and since it has no competitors in the air transportation market, it sets monopoly prices for air tickets. This benefits the ruling elite. There are no normal market relations here, no competition. Moreover, by their actions, the authorities violate the rights of citizens to freedom of movement, closing the country without alternative, unjustifiably introducing quarantine and interrupting all communications.
One more point needs to be taken into account. Human rights activists fear that, among other things, the flight to Kazan has opened a channel for the deportation of undesirable people who are being held in deportation centers in Russia.
High prices and rare flights were apparently set specifically so that the many thousands of passengers represented by Turkmen migrants who were stuck abroad for a number of reasons could not return to their homeland. This opinion is heard among migrants. Over the past two years, the protest movement has increased precisely in this environment; the authoritarian government does not want to see fellow citizens who have “breathed the air of freedom” abroad. Ashgabat is waiting for the peak of such sentiments to subside.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights