Samarkand recognised as one of the fastest growing airports in Europe

Samarkand International Airport (SKD) in Uzbekistan is one of the fastest growing airports in Europe based on its passenger numbers soaring by 158.9% on pre-COVID levels.

The gateway notes that the upturn is the third largest of any airport measured by ACI EUROPE, which represents over 500 airports in 55 countries.

SKD is second-only, in terms of growth, to the Albanian capital of Tirana among medium-size airports. It saw passenger numbers increase by 232.3%, while Babimost in western Poland led the small airport section by growing 164.6%.

As a result of the increase in traffic, Samarkand has been classed as a ‘medium’ size airport by ACI EUROPE for the first time, having previously been in the ‘small’ category when it handled under a million passengers per annum.

Ulugbek Shamsikulov, the newly appointed CEO of Air Marakanda, stated: “The progressive policies of our government and investment by our owner in this 21st century, state-of-the-art airport, are together delivering passenger growth. But we are only just embarking on our journey to attract further visitors to Samarkand and Uzbekistan, who will help to drive growth in our economy.

 “We see significant demand for domestic and international travel from this area and from airlines bringing overseas visitors to explore our incredible ancient city of Samarkand. We will continue to grow our network during the summer season, as airlines increase capacity on existing routes and as we open new city connections with Samarkand.”

Samarkand continues to outstrip average passenger growth figures achieved elsewhere, ACI EUROPE reporting a 10.2% increase in March compared to the corresponding month in 2023.

Traffic came close to full recovery from pre-pandemic volumes, ending just -1.5% below March 2019 figures. ACI says figures for Q1 2024 are 10.2% up on last year and just -1.3% below Q1 2019.

Samarkand International Airport is among only 43% of airports in Europe to have shown growth when compared to pre-pandemic passenger volumes. It is well ahead of the 2.8% average growth in the Europe that includes the nations of Albania, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Indeed, SKD recently highlighted its continued growth during the autumn-winter period (AWP) season, with more than 491,000 passengers (+55%) using the airport between October 29, 2023, and March 30, 2024.

And in the first three months of 2024, some 294,000 passengers have passed through the gateway’s modern new terminal – up 39% increase on the same period of 2023.

According to airport management company, Air Marakanda, there has been a big increase in the number of carriers using SKD for a first time during the 2023/24 AWP season, with the new entrants including Red Wings, SunExpress, Humo Air, Ural Airlines, Qazaq Air and Centrum Air.

New routes now connect Samarkand with Izmir, Jeddah, Kazan, Tashkent and Turkestan.

SKD has also welcomed the launch of Air Samarkand, the first carrier to base itself at the airport. After beginning with a charter flight programme, Air Samarkand commenced scheduled services to Istanbul on March 21, and is soon expected to launch to other new destinations.

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