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Direct flights to Mestia resume

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 16
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated on July 15 that direct flights from Tbilisi to Mestia have been resumed.

“After a hiatus that lasted several years, we have managed to resume the flights,” the Prime Minister stated during his visit to Natakhtari Airstrip. He informed that a flight to Mestia reduces travel time from 7-8 hours to 45 minutes and costs 65 GEL.

The PM stressed that having a regular flight between Natakhtari and Mestia would motivate foreign tourists to travel to Svaneti, while providing Svaneti’s population with additional income. Gharibashvili thanked the Ministry of Economy and United Airports of Georgia for their work.

Georgia’s Serviceair, which won the tender, will conduct flights to Mestia three times a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The company claims that it will transport its clients via a new, extremely comfortable plane manufactured in the Czech Republic that can accommodate 15 people. Tickets are already available and the first flight will take place on July 18.

Garibashvili noted that the government would support the flights with a three-year limited subsidy, so the airline will be able to keep prices low and continue operating all year-round, including winter.

Minister of Economy Giorgi Kvirikashvili stressed the importance of developing a small aviation industry for tourism promotion and regional development.

“We are actively engaged in supporting the field. Natakhtari-Mestia flights are part of this process,” Kvirikashvili admitted.

The event was commented on by Giorgi Karbealshvili, who chaired the Air Navigation Monitoring Council. He stresses that the planes introduced by the government for the Mestia route are dangerous.

“It is recognized worldwide that Czech manufactured L410 planes are one of the most risky ones. Not a single year passed without a catastrophe caused by such models. It seems the government cannot realize the threat followed by the introduction of the planes in Georgia,” Karbelashvili says.

The information was condemned by the air-navigation representatives, stressing that the planes were tested and certified.

Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus. Four of the 10 highest peaks of the Caucasus are located in the region. The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount Shkhara at 5,201 meters (17,059 feet), is located in the province. Svaneti is one of the most distinguished regions with its amazing nature, old costumes, towers and interesting sites. The entire region is on the UNESCO world heritage list.