|Founded||7 April 1992|
|Hubs||Heydar Aliyev International Airport|
|Frequent-flyer program||AZAL Miles|
|Parent company||Government of Azerbaijan|
|Key people||Jahangir Askerov (President)|
Azerbaijan Airlines (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Hava Yolları), also known as AZAL, is the flag carrier and largest airline of the country of Azerbaijan. Based in Baku, adjacent to Heydar Aliyev International Airport, the carrier operates to destinations across Asia, the CIS, Europe and the USA. Azerbaijan Airlines is a member of the International Air Transport Association. The airline was founded on 7 April 1992 as the first national airline established after the country gained its independence.
The first air squadron in Azerbaijan was formed on June 2, 1938. This date was declared the Azerbaijan Civil Aviation Day under the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2006. During the period from 1941 to 1945 Azerbaijan aviation worked under the motto “All for the Front".
In 1990, Azerbaijan announced that it was setting up its own airline, and that it would be independent of Aeroflot, the long-time provider of air services for the Soviet republics. Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) was officially established on 17 August 1992. Its first president was Vagif Sadykhly.
Formed from the regional branch of Aeroflot, Azerbaijan Airlines, also known as Azerbaijan Hava Yollari, soon spread its wings into the world outside the Soviet Union, which had been Aeroflot's exclusive domain. A scheduled Baku-Istanbul route was launched in January 1991 in partnership with Turkish Airlines, and the cargo enterprise Aviasharg was created in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates. AZAL inherited a huge fleet from Aeroflot, including more than 20 Soviet-made Tupolev airliners, some regional airliners and freighters, 90 light aircraft, and 50 helicopters. It was quick to lease a pair of Boeing 727s, however, that once belonged to Pan Am (and were built in 1968). AZAL had an extensive involvement with the Farhad Azim associated Aviation Leasing Group (ALG), a U.S.-based lessor of Boeing 727s. It had a transatlantic charter cargo joint venture with ALG's Buffalo Airways, which was also training AZAL aircrews to Western standards in Dallas, Texas.
In November 1994, AZAL began a route to Dubai, which, along with Istanbul, was a key source of Western goods. It was soon also flying to Tehran, Tel Aviv, Saint Petersburg, London, and China. Service to several regional destinations was suspended in mid-1998, due to low margins and the need to repair three Yak-40 aircraft. With the exception of a few major cities, service to neighboring CIS countries was suspended in January 1999, due to debt. These routes were generally unprofitable as well, and were facing new competition from trains. According to the Trend News Agency, domestic flights accounted for only about 16 percent of AZAL's traffic in 1998.
Azerbaijan's border dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh had delayed financing for two new Boeing 757s from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. The $66 million loan guarantee was the Ex-Im Bank's first transaction for Azerbaijan, according to Air Transport Intelligence. The financing also was guaranteed by the Azerbaijan government and the International Bank of Azerbaijan. The United Kingdom's Export Credits Guarantee Department guaranteed financing for Rolls-Royce engines, utilized by both Boeing 757s. The first of the 757s was delivered in the fall of 2000. The planes offered the carrier unprecedented range, comfort, and efficiency on long-haul international routes. They also helped project a modern image to the world. The second Boeing 757 to be delivered arrived in December laden with medical supplies due to a recent earthquake in Azerbaijan. In January 2001, AZAL used one of the planes to begin operating a Paris-Baku route in collaboration with Air France.
Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim country, experienced a reduction in air traffic following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. AZAL was able to remain profitable through 2001, however, and even make progress toward paying off its debt. The airline was soon shopping for more new aircraft as it retired its aging Soviet models. AZAL ordered its first Western-made helicopters in October 2002, purchasing six for EUR 52 million from Eurocopter. AZAL used helicopters to ferry personnel and equipment out to oil rigs in the Caspian Sea.
In July 2004, two of AZAL's airliners were impounded by Turkey over a 12-year-old debt owed by Azerbaijan's Agriculture Ministry to a Turkish company. In the same month, AZAL ordered new Ukrainian-made, 52-passenger Antonov An-140 turboprops to replenish its regional fleet, paying about $36 million for four planes.
On 22 July 2010, Boeing and Azerbaijan Airlines signed an agreement to substitute two Next-Generation 737 airplanes for one 767-300ER (extended range) and two 767 Freighters. Including this announcement, Azerbaijan Airlines had a total of eight Boeing airplanes on order: two 767-300ERs, two 767 Freighters, two Next-Generation 737s and two 787-8s. In September 2010, AZAL cancelled an order for the remaining two Next-Generation 737s.
On 23 and 24 December 2014, Azerbaijan Airlines took delivery of the two Boeing 787 Dreamliners it had on order. The airline also launched its Premium economy product along with the introduction of the 787.
On 12 November 2017, Boeing agreed to sell five 787-8 aircraft to Azerbaijan Airlines, valued at about $1.9 billion at list prices.
Main article: List of Azerbaijan Airlines destinations
Azerbaijan Airlines codeshares with the following airlines:
As of January 2023[update], Azerbaijan Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:
|Airbus A340-500||2||—||36||—||201||237||||World's last airline to operate its type.|
|Irkut MC-21-300||—||10||TBA||Deliveries were to begin in 2019|
Azerbaijan Airlines used to operate a number of aircraft, its most common aircraft used to be the Tupolev Tu-154 until it was retired in 2013. All the aircraft Azerbaijan Airlines used to operate are listed below.
|Boeing 727-200||6||1993||2004||One fleet is currently stored|||
|Embraer 170||1||2013||2017||Transferred to wholly owned subsidiary Buta Airways|
|Ilyushin IL-76||7||1993||2004||One Aircraft stored at Baku|||
|1||Still operates for Azerbaijani Government|
|1||1995||Crashed as Azerbaijan Airlines Flight 56|
|1||Still operates for Azerbaijani Government|