Georgian Airways to seek Russian compensation for flights suspension
TBILISI. Oct 8 (Interfax) - Georgian Airways is planning to file a $25 million lawsuit against the Russian Ministry of Transport for the "unjustified suspension of Russia-bound flights from July 8," the airline company's General Director Roman Bokeria told journalists on Tuesday.
"The formal reason for the ban was the Russian Transport Ministry's allegation that Georgian Airways owed $800,000 to the Russian air navigation service and failed to meet the requirements under the air safety program," Bokeria said.
In reality, Georgian Airways has no debt to the agency despite "our paying three times more in tax than a Russian airline company.
"It also runs counter to the current Georgian-Russian inter-state agreement. As for air safety, Georgian Airways has been on the market for 27 years now and never had any problems in any country," Bokeria said, noting that the airline flies regularly to almost all European countries and is a member of the International Air Transport Association.
The Russian president's flight ban of June 21 only applied to Russian airline companies, he recalled. "Therefore, the Russian Transport Ministry's banning Georgian Airways flights is illegal, as a result of which the company incurred substantial financial losses. It also violated the rights of our passengers.
"We are planning to appeal the actions of the Russian Transport Ministry at a European court and demand that it award a $25 million compensation for the unjustified flight ban," Bokeria said.
The Russian-Georgian relations soured once again after riots in Tbilisi on June 20 caused by the arrival of a Duma delegation to attend an inter-parliamentary Orthodox Assembly. On June 21 Russian President Vladimir Putin banned Russian airlines from flying to Georgia. Tour operators were recommended not to sell package tours to Georgia.
The following day the Transport Ministry said that Georgian airlines' flights would also be suspended from July 8.
The reason for the suspension was "the need to ensure an adequate level of air safety and the presence of an outstanding debt for air navigation to the federal state unitary enterprise State Corporation for Air Traffic Management".
"Flights will be suspended until the Russian side receives air safety programs from Georgian Airways and MyWay Airlines, their auditing and approval by the Russian side and until the Georgian side fully repays its debt for air navigation services," the ministry said.
The two countries previously suspended flights over the armed conflict in South Ossetia in august 2008. Air links resumed in August 2010, initially as charter flights. Regular flights resumed in September 2014.