HUMO Air: new low-cost airline takes off in Uzbekistan

HUMO Air, a new low-cost airline based in Uzbekistan, launched its first scheduled flight on Wednesday, connecting the capital city of Tashkent with the historic city of Samarkand.

The airline, which was established by Uzbekistan’s national carrier Uzbekistan Airways last year, aims to offer affordable and convenient flights to domestic and regional destinations, filling a gap in the market that was not served by other Uzbek airlines.

HUMO Air, which means “hummingbird” in Uzbek, operates a fleet of four Airbus A320 aircraft, each with a single-class 180-seat economy configuration. The airline plans to expand its fleet to 18 planes by the end of 2025, and to add more routes to cities such as Bukhara, Fergana, Namangan, and Termez within Uzbekistan, as well as Almaty, Istanbul, and Dubai internationally.

The airline’s launch comes at a time when Uzbekistan is undergoing a major transformation under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 following the death of his authoritarian predecessor Islam Karimov. Mirziyoyev has initiated a series of reforms to open up the country’s economy, society, and foreign relations, and to attract more tourists and investors to the Central Asian nation.

One of the key sectors that Mirziyoyev has targeted for reform is aviation, which he sees as vital for enhancing Uzbekistan’s connectivity and competitiveness. In 2019, he signed a decree to liberalize the aviation market and to allow private and foreign airlines to operate in the country. He also ordered the modernization of the country’s airports and air traffic control systems, and the reduction of taxes and fees for airlines and passengers.

As a result of these measures, Uzbekistan has seen a surge in air travel demand and supply in recent years. According to the country’s Civil Aviation Agency, the number of passengers carried by Uzbek airlines increased by 17.5 percent in 2019, reaching 7.2 million. The number of airlines operating in the country also increased from six to 11, including new entrants such as Qazaq Air, FlyArystan, and Air Astana from neighboring Kazakhstan.

HUMO Air is the latest addition to this growing aviation market, and it hopes to capitalize on the rising demand for low-cost travel among Uzbek citizens and international visitors. The airline’s chairman, Andrey Chernyaev, said that HUMO Air’s goal is to “increase passenger traffic, boost footfall, and make traveling around the country more affordable, easy, and comfortable.”

The airline’s fares start from as low as $15 for a one-way ticket, and include a free checked baggage allowance of 23 kilograms. The airline also offers online booking and check-in, as well as a loyalty program for frequent flyers.

HUMO Air’s inaugural flight from Tashkent to Samarkand, which took off at 14:20 local time, was greeted by a water cannon salute and a ceremony attended by government officials, aviation executives, and media representatives. The flight was fully booked, with 180 passengers on board, including some who had won free tickets through a social media contest.

Among the passengers was Dilshod Khakimov, a 32-year-old businessman from Tashkent, who said he was excited to try the new airline and to visit Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning architecture and rich history.

“I think HUMO Air is a great initiative for Uzbekistan, because it will make traveling more accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” he said. “I have always wanted to see Samarkand, but I never had the chance before. Now, thanks to HUMO Air, I can go there in just an hour and for a very reasonable price.”

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