Baku International Airport starts new direct flights to Europe

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The return of the Olympics means new seats can be installed on the Soyuz A state-controlled airline in Azerbaijan will start allowing Russian, Turkish and Moldovan citizens to fly…

Baku International Airport starts new direct flights to Europe

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The return of the Olympics means new seats can be installed on the Soyuz

A state-controlled airline in Azerbaijan will start allowing Russian, Turkish and Moldovan citizens to fly to and from the city of Baku at the end of the year.

The first tickets will be released by 24 December, a statement said.

The Times reported that a four-hour return flight will cost £498 ($650).

Covid-19 – a seven-day-a-week direct service – started with the European Games in Baku in September, after a seven-year hiatus.

The point of the tournament was to bring international sporting and cultural events to the host country to boost national pride.

There are only a handful of flights a week to Baku from neighbouring Iran and Armenia. A flight to Baku from Dubai costs around £1,400 ($1,800) return including flights and hotels.

A local airline will initially operate flights to Baku, with start dates expected to be mid- to late January. The airline’s name is being kept secret.

It will start with the replacement of four ex-Ukrainian Air Fleet Boeing 737-800s.

The return of the Olympics to Baku next year gives the city some further impetus.

It is a milestone for a country whose roads, ports and airports are among the most closed-off in the world.

Covid-19’s slogan is: “Baku: The centre of the universe”.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Baku hosted the European Games

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of oil and a major producer of natural gas.

As well as the European Games, the city has played host to the European Indoor Championships in March, the Olympics qualifying rounds for Euro 2020 and the European Athletics Championships this year.

Baku has drawn comparisons with modern-day Las Vegas because of its lack of geographical landmarks.

Russian punk band Pussy Riot last year staged a mock anti-government protest inside the main city square and the Winter Olympic mascot is Petros.

Many Iranians are thought to visit Baku to drink, gamble and have sex.

So far, details on the full range of flights and fares are sketchy.

When BBC News Online contacted the head of Baku City Airlines, the company did not wish to comment.

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