Overview of Turkmenistan
According to the Turkmenistan Airlines website, "Turkmenistan is an ancient land of great spirituality, tradition and natural beauty." It is a country in Central Asia on the Caspian Sea, and largely covered by the Karakum Desert.
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was rebuilt in the common Soviet style in the mid-20th century. Today, the capital looks like a museum of white marble and is filled with grand monuments honoring former president Saparmurat Niyazov.
The ancient cities of Merv and Konye-Urgench were once part of the Silk Road. In addition, the country is home to other unique sights such as the Darvaza Gas Crater, or 'The Gate to Hell,' which is a continuously burning crater brought on by a mistake made by Soviet geologists in the early 1970s.
Curious travellers are often drawn to the surrealism of the country, however, Turkmen people themselves are known for their hospitality and offer a warm hand when visiting the secretive state.
Turkmenistan Airlines is the flag carrier and only airline of Turkmenistan, with its headquarters in Ashgabat. It operates domestic and international passenger flights, in addition to cargo services.
It is generally the easiest and most efficient way to travel to Turkmenistan. Set up in 1992 by the government of the former Soviet Union, today it is owned and operated by the Government of Turkmenistan.
In 2019, it was briefly banned from flying into European Union (EU) airports on safety grounds, which left traveller's stranded throughout Europe.
The ban was subsequently lifted in October 2019, after a thorough audit which cleared the company to fly once again within the borders of the EU.
Turkmenistan Airlines transports about 5000 passengers daily on domestic flights in the country and nearly 3 million passengers are transported annually on international and domestic routes, according to the Turkmenistan Airlines official website.
The Turkmenistan Airlines fleet consists of only modern American aircrafts. All international flights are operated in a two class configuration; Business and Economy Class.
Turkmenistan Airlines has established a training school for aviation personnel including technicians and mechanics, who service the engines and the bodies of the airplanes as well as radio-electronic navigation equipment, fuel and lubricant experts, electricians and stewards.
The crew are annually retrained on new types of aircraft, and also undergo extensive courses. Pilots also undergo and continue special training at aviation centres in the United Kingdom, the USA and France.
Destinations of Turkmenistan Airlines
Turkmenistan Airlines operates flights to a relatively large amount of domestic and international destinations from its hub at Ashgabat International Airport. In addition, it operates minor and mainly domestic operations from Turkmenabat Airport and Turkmenbashi Airport.
The airline has successfully made the country far more accessible for international travellers. Turkmenistan Airlines flies to many European and Asian destinations including; the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, China, Latvia, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
EU Ban on Turkmenistan Airlines
In early 2019, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency banned the Turkmen flag carrier from operating flights within EU borders. As such, Turkmenistan Airlines had been forced to resort to wet-lease operations to maintain European services following the withdrawal.
Turkmenistan Airlines says it took "immediate action" to address the "difficulties in satisfying relevant requirements" for third-country operators.
It later stated that the EASA carried out an audit at the carrier's base in Ashgabat at the end of September, and reauthorized the airline on 11 October. The EASA has declared that airline has passed all safety inspections and is allowed to resume operation of all flights within the EU.
The Leader of Turkmenistan
Flying with Turkmenistan Airlines is not just a regular flight, it is also an experience! Just like in the country itself, the airline adheres to a strict policy regarding the leader and the government of the country.
As such, state imagery and pictures of the leader are on display in the aircraft for interested passengers to get their first glimpse into the country.
For those who are only connecting in Ashgabat, a flight with Turkmenistan Airlines acts as a small taste of what tourists roaming the country will experience.
Turkmenistan is geographically well-located as a connecting point between Asia, ex-Soviet states, the Middle East and the European Union. As such, travellers between Europe and Asia have found Turkmenistan Airlines to be more economical than its competitors for many routes.
Further planned destinations in the near future are; Japan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.
Ashgabat International Airport
Ashgabat International Airport, formerly known as Saparmurat Türkmenbaşy International Airport, is one of three international airports in Turkmenistan. It is located approximately 10 km northwest of the capital Ashgabat.
Turkmenbashi International Airport
Turkmenbashi International Airport is the second largest international airport in Turkmenistan. It is located in city Turkmenbashi and opened in 1959. Regular passenger flights depart for Ashgabat, Daşoguz and Mary.
Ashgabat Airport (2019). 'About Ashgabat Airport.' www.ashgabatairport.gov.tm.
Reuters (2019), 'EU lifts ban on Turkmenistan Airlines. www.reuters.com.
Turkmenistan Airlines Website (2019). 'About Turkmenistan Airlines.' www.flyturkmenistanairlines.eu.