Interview: T. Lkhagvasuren
How can Mongolia’s potential as a regional aviation hub be developed? What is currently being done to attract greater volumes of air traffic?
T. LKHAGVASUREN: Mongolia is one of the world's largest land-locked countries and therefore the development of the air transport industry will have a major positive impact on economic growth. The sector is considered strategically important, as it holds the potential to facilitate tourism, investment and international trade. In light of this importance, in 2013, the government established the “State Policy on Civil Aviation Sector up to 2020” as part of efforts to boost the air transport industry.
Mongolia is geographically situated on the most direct Europe-Asia routes. It is also located on the vertical axis through the North Pole, which connects South-east Asian commodity suppliers to North American markets. A study we conducted found that of the top four airlines transiting through Mongolia, three were Western companies, presenting significant opportunities for stopovers.
Thanks to the country’s geographical location and the advanced technology of the air transport industry, there is a great potential for us to become a hub for passengers, cargo and refuelling. In order to develop this hub potential, research must be completed and concrete steps must be taken.
With its increased capacity and advanced technology, the New Ulaanbaatar International Airport (NUBIA) will be a major contributor to the sector. There is also considerable international interest in increasing the number of flights to Mongolia.
During a recent meeting with Russian sector players, a number of Russian civilian airlines mentioned that they were interested in using Mongolia as a transit point to South-east Asia and China, which they cannot currently do because of the lack of transit areas at the existing airport. Other foreign airlines have also expressed their interest in increasing flights to the country and using the transit areas at the new airport. Supporting requests by foreign airlines to establish routes to Mongolia will be a key factor in developing tourism and gives us more opportunities to provide transit hub airport services.
Moreover, numerous projects and investments are being implemented in order to provide safe, secure and efficient services that comply with international standards. For example, 80% of Mongolian airspace is now being monitored by radar, and we recently reduced the standard for longitudinal separation between aircraft from 90 km to 30 km, which was already in place among our neighbours. These actions will support better airspace management and improve the service quality to airlines.
What prompted the move to build a new airport, and how will NUBIA be an improvement in comparison to the existing facility?
LKHAGVASUREN: The current Chinggis Khaan International Airport was built in 1985 and has a capacity of 600,000 passengers per year. However, the airport currently handles 1.3m passengers per year, which is more than twice its capacity. The replacement airport, NUBIA, is scheduled to start operations in June 2017. Once open, the new airport will have the capacity to accommodate up to 3m passengers per year. Plans for a second phase are scheduled to be executed in 2024 and these will expand capacity up to 12m passengers per year.
Aside from the increase in capacity, the new facility will incorporate state-of-the-art technology designed to improve the passenger experience and ease usage for airlines. For example, advanced refuelling technology will allow for aircraft to refuel much quicker than was previously possible.
Furthermore, the new airport’s location is better situated for aircraft to land and take off in a variety of weather conditions. Additionally, the site will facilitate access and local travel, as it will be connected to the rail network that is presently under decision.
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