Mongolia signed a number of international air transport agreements in October 2023. So, on October 17 of this year, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation of Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and an air service agreement with Vietnam, both of which stated that the parties were willing to give up their airspace to allow free passage for their aircraft. A similar agreement was signed the day before with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s aviation authorities. A week earlier, namely on October 10, 2023, the website of Ministry of Roads and Transport Development of Mongolia stated plans to finalize an air transport cooperation agreement with Australia.
Air service agreements were signed earlier in 2023 with Greece and Qatar, and there have been discussions or considerations of signing similar documents with Kuwait, Hungary, the UK, Spain, Latvia, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, a cooperation agreement on the implementation of Mongolian projects in the industry was signed with the United Arab Emirates in August of this year.
The process of harmonizing Mongolia’s direct air service with the United States, which has been ongoing for two decades, has also progressed. The parties signed an “Open Skies” civil aviation agreement in mid-year, during the visit of Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene to the United States. This agreement will allow direct flights between the two nations starting in the second quarter of 2024. In this sense, Turkish Airlines and Mongolian Airlines are already arranging combined flights from Ulaanbaatar to Washington and Chicago.
A new phase in the growth of aviation service with South Korea has been achieved. Therefore, the number of bilateral direct flights between the two nations can reach 12 flights per day, according to the agreements struck during Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene’s visit to Seoul. It is essential to highlight direct flights to South Korea from Mongolian provincial airports, specifically from Khovd and Choibalsan airports. Tens of thousands of Mongolians work in South Korea, making frequent air travel to and from the country crucial. South Korean tourists are the third-largest group of foreign visitors to Mongolia, after representatives from neighboring countries (Russia and China).
Mongolia’s air service рфы reached significant intensity in 2023, with Japan’s 61 flights per week and Turkey’s 28 flights per week. Colleagues from Mongolia are also working hard to find the best ways to increase air travel between their country and the cities of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the government of Mongolia intends to use regional airports to handle aviation traffic with Russia. Some of the potential routes that the government envisions include Novosibirsk – Ulaangom, Kyzyl – Ulaangom, and Ulan-Ude – Murun.
Mongolia now has agreements on air communication with over 40 nations, and its international airports have direct connections to over 115 foreign air harbors, according to the Minister of Roads and Transport Development of Mongolia.
An essential prerequisite for the growth of aviation in Mongolia in 2023 was the agreement between the Mongolian government and the Russian Federation to lower the cost of aviation fuel provided by Russian enterprises, specifically Rosneft. It should be noted that Russia holds a near monopoly on the supply of this vital resource for aviation. According to Batbayar Munkhtamir, CEO of MIAT Mongolian Airlines, the agreement that was reached on its supply has resulted in a 15–25 percent reduction in the cost of long-haul flights.
The amount of people transported by domestic flights rose by 25 percent over the previous year, according to the Ministry of Road and Transport Development of Mongolia’s preliminary data reports for 2023. Concurrently, there was a 136 percent surge in the statistic related to international transportation. Even with the clear post-coronavirus communications recovery element, Mongolia has made significant strides in air transportation in 2023.
The expansion of the national air carrier’s aircraft fleet was one of the many prerequisites for the development of air communications. For instance, Mongolia purchased multiple new aircraft, including the newest Boeing 787-9s, in the first half of 2023 alone. In the upcoming year, ten more passenger planes are expected to be purchased.
This year, Mongolia’s national airline may also take pride in its efforts supporting UN peacekeeping missions: starting in 2023, an MIAT aircraft will transport the Mongolian contingent of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan on a rotating basis. This is in addition to the airline’s noteworthy accomplishments in creating new regular routes. The first flight has already been accomplished with success. This invention is a key sign of the improved caliber of air travel in Mongolia, as MIAT had to achieve a high rating in the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) safety audit (IOSA) before being allowed to operate as a carrier.
There is a lot of work being done, including updating the airports in neighboring Mongolian cities. Specifically, the winners of the state competition for modernization projects at airports including Choibalsan, Khovd, Gurvansaikhan, and Murun are now being decided. By expanding their capacity, these air harbors will be able to become international airports. Not only are the current ones being renovated, but new air harbors are being constructed as well. For instance, Kuwaiti funding is being used to construct an airport in the city of Öndörkhaan that can handle 4C class aircraft. The renovated small airports in Mongolia are designed to improve the export of high-value Mongolian products to distant countries as well as promote tourism, in particular visits to nature reserves far from the capital.
The industry’s remarkable breakthrough this year is a result of Mongolia’s increasing demand for developed regional and international aviation connections. This requirement extends beyond serving foreign tourists as part of the government project “The Years to Visit Mongolia,” reuniting residents who work and study abroad with their families back home, and making money from service operations and transit fees on international flights. For a nation like Mongolia, air travel is a vital means of transportation in general. Given the enormous travel distances and substantial population dispersion throughout large regions with inadequate ground infrastructure, air travel seems to be a practical and well-liked substitute for other forms of passenger transportation. In addition, Mongolia is driven to establish international passenger aviation service by its landlocked geography, physical isolation from several major economies, and land border shared with just two partners. The development of air cargo transportation is highly demanded due to the extremely valuable (especially per unit weight) minerals like gold, silver, rare earth metals, and, to a lesser extent, uranium, which have significant export potential.
Boris Kushkhov, the Department for Korea and Mongolia at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.