AZAL Azerbaijan Airlines (J2, Baku) has reiterated its opposition to the accession of Azerbaijan to the EU Open Skies zone, which would fully liberalise the air traffic rights between the Caucasian country and the EU.

"AZAL fears the consequences of signing the Open Skies Agreement with Europe. I officially declare that there are no restrictions on flights to Azerbaijan for any airline. I will say more foreign carriers are even provided with extended commercial rights of freedom of the air," President Jahangir Asgarov said during the meeting with KPMG, a consultancy dealing with the Open Skies adoption.

Asgarov further added that Azerbaijan currently pursues a liberal policy wherein foreign carriers are quickly granted necessary traffic rights, including the fifth freedom rights via Baku and cabotage rights (eighth freedom) within Azerbaijan.

Once the EU Open Skies agreement is signed, EU-based carriers would not need to apply for traffic rights to Azerbaijan and could launch flights to the country at a much shorter notice. The treaty would not, however, regulate fifth or eighth freedom operations.

According to the ch-aviation capacity module, AZAL currently has a 38.9% market share by capacity on all flights departing Azerbaijan. Other major players in the market include Turkish Airlines (14.3% market share), Lufthansa (5.3%), and flydubai (5.0%).

The Open Skies could lead to a boost in low-cost carrier traffic from Europe. Currently, Wizz Air operates one flight per week to Baku, while other major European LCCs, such as Ryanair, easyJet, or Norwegian do not serve Azerbaijan.