From January 1, 2020, Azerbaijan will grant foreign airlines fifth and seventh freedoms of the air for the first time, not just from Baku, but from all of the country's international airports, which include Nakhichevan, Gyandzha, Gabala, Lenkoran, and Zaqatala, according to an article published by AZAL Azerbaijan Airlines (J2, Baku) on December 27, 2019. Prior to this decision, permissions to perform such flights in Azerbaijan were granted to airlines individually.

The rationale for the loosening of bilateral regulations is to encourage foreign airlines to operate flights to Azerbaijan, open up new markets, and allow them to increase their passenger numbers and improve the attractiveness for tourists. Essentially all overseas carriers willing to operate services to Azerbaijan in the future will have the same rights as the national air carrier under the new conditions.

"It is a global decision for the country as a whole," said AZAL President Jahangir Asgarov. "Thanks to President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev’s constant care and attention to Azerbaijan’s civil aviation, all conditions have been created at the country’s international airports for providing services to a large number of foreign airlines. Introduction of the fifth freedoms of air at all international airports of the country will make it possible to expand the geography of flights from Azerbaijan, increase the country's transport accessibility in the foreign market, as well as to realize the country's tourism potential and provide competitive offers for passengers. Our citizens will have an opportunity to expand the geography of their travels and reduce travel costs to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America."

With the granting fifth freedoms, foreign carriers can now perform flights from their home countries to other cities with a stopover in Baku (or any other airport in Azerbaijan) with full traffic rights. For example, European airlines will be able to operate a Paris-Tokyo flight with a stopover in Baku (or any other airport in the country). Alternatively, a Japanese carrier can perform services to EU countries with an intermediate stop at one of the international airports of Azerbaijan.

By opening up seventh freedom rights, overseas carriers can now fly between Azerbaijan and foreign countries, negating the need to land at their respective base airports. For example, a European airline can fly to Azerbaijan from Dubai and then on to the US without landing in their home country.

In total, 40 countries in Europe, North America, Australia and South-East Asia will now have these improved market conditions. The nations covered are: France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece, Czechia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, Ireland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Bulgaria, Georgia, US, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, South Korea, Malaysia and Australia. This number may well be increased in the future as Azerbaijan looks to expand the programme.

In addition to the relaxation in bilateral rights, the country is looking to provide incentives to any new airline wanting to start flights to Azerbaijan. Interested carriers will receive a 100% discount on the airports’ services. In the second year of operation, the reduction will be 70%, in the third 50%, and in the fourth 30%. The discount period can also be extended if the airline increases the number of flights and passengers.

In terms of the share of weekly capacity at Azerbaijan's airports, the market is dominated by Baku with 94%, followed by Gyandzha with 4%. In the first 11 months of 2019, Azerbaijan's international airports served a total of 5.15 million passengers, of which 4.39 million were handled in Baku. This is 6% higher than the same figure last year.