Zvartnots Airport | 1
15 km west of Yerevan on the A326, 6 km east of Echmiadzin
Before You Go
You can check your baggage from your starting point outside the CIS all the way to Yerevan, as long as you are traveling on a direct flight. All carriers have had good records in getting your baggage through in one try. except KLM and Air France. We just heard from our friend John H. that when his bags were lost between Yerevan and LA, KLM insisted they were only the "agent" for Armenian Airlines, and he would have to deal directly through them (back in Armenia) to retrieve them.
Checking bags through is risky if you decide to connect at more than one point on your way to the flight for Yerevan. We had several pieces back-logged by Air France between the US and Amsterdam (through Paris), and had to wait a week before they were delivered to Armenian Airlines. Be sure to track your luggage carefully. If you are flying direct, with one connection, and it is booked direct, there should be no problem.
If you check from/to the States, you are allowed 30 kg luggage (66 pounds) in two pieces for some carriers, 23 Kg (50 pounds) for others. Check before you leave. For flights ending or originating in Europe, the Middle East and the CIS, you are allowed a maximum of 20 Kg. (44 pounds) in two pieces.
Excess baggage is calculated at a percentage of the ticket price per kilogram, and can be as much as a whopping 1.25% of ticket price per kilogram.
International and CIS flights originate at Zvartnots Airport ( 74-45-06, 53-33-11), located 15 kilometers from Yerevan on the Echmiadzin Highway (B: #107, Taxi).
To get there: from Yerevan, take the Echmiadzin highway from city center, 15 km past the Cognac factory and Isaahakian Bus Station and the US Embassy. the entry is marked, on the S. From the west (Echmiadzin, Ashtarak, Giumri) the airport is off the Yerevan highway, 6 km east of Echmiadzin, the entry is marked, to the S.
The VIP terminal is to the left of the terminal, veer dead ahead/left as you reach the Arrival/Departure ramps. Non-VIP passengers follow the signs to enter the Departures and Arrivals ramp on the right as you approach the terminal.
The airport is the largest in Armenia, and has undergone several renovations in the last 10 years to serve International, CIS and regional passengers. The latest is being done by an Argentinian Armenian, with a new terminal slated to open in 2007.
Zvartnots has two terminals. The larger, circular building is used for all International and CIS flights. The smaller, older terminal is reserved for governmental and private planes, and for a "VIP" service (open to all who pay).
The airport has information signs in Armenian, Russian and English, and is blessed with a very simple ground plan. Check-in and Departures are on level three, Customs and Arrivals on Level one. Second floor holds an information desk, medical aid office, a ticket office, café, post office and restrooms.
Which Terminal, which sector?
Arrivals: Unless you are arriving by VIP (someone has to make this arrangement for you at the airport beforehand), you will be arriving in the larger terminal, International Sector. For all International flights outside the CIS, you will clear immigration, collect your luggage, and pass customs in this sector. For CIS flights, you will probably pass through one of the other sectors.
Departures: Depart either from the main terminal, or VIP (25,000 AMD) departure, which used to smooth the process and give you time to relax before boarding, but is no longer necessary. In both cases you pass immigration and customs before boarding the plane. British Airways does not use VIP for departures.
For CIS and regional flights, you most likely will not pass immigration and customs, and be directed to another sector of the terminal to collect bags. You should ask to clear immigration and customs, especially if you are purchasing a visa at the airport. Otherwise you will end up spending one to three days of your trip at OVIR getting one in order to leave Armenia (See Visas)
Entering Armenia, Business Class and Economy Class passengers will disembark in the International sector terminal on arrival in Yerevan. Pre-Arranged VIP passengers will be escorted off the plane and taken to the VIP lounge to wait for their bags and clear customs.
Leaving Armenia, you have three options. If you have a business class ticket, there is a business class check-in and waiting (with customs and immigration) located in front of Entrance III. There you are treated to free coffee and watered juice (bar drinks extra), and satellite television while you wait for the plane.
Run by Avia Service ( 28-16-07, 77-00-07, 74-97-25), VIP Service is located in the old terminal (follow the yellow signs on the Airport Road). The price is an exhorbitant 25,000 AMD (or about $52) per person in your party, and includes check-in, customs and immigrations, plus a large waiting area with food, drinks, telephone ($3-5 a minute) and satellite television. They call you when your plane comes and escort you to the plane. If you are being met at the airport, they can arrange for arrival.
Economy Class and Non-VIP check in is in the main terminal, first sector. The sector is on your right as you enter through terminal Entrance III. There is a railing in front of the area, and against the wall there will be customs declaration forms. Fill them out before you enter the sector. You join the line in front of the doors to the sector, and wait to be allowed in. No matter how chaotic it may seem outside the sector (families will be saying good-bye right up to the moment the person slips through the doors, and then they will stand and peer through the door as it cracks open), the waiting period and indifferent treatment you get from customs and immigration in economy class is a vast improvement over the process three years ago, when everyone was shoved into one large barn and had to fight to get to the plane.
There is a duty free shop in the economy sector only, with prices that make you wonder what planet the owners live on, since everything they have for sale is 2 to 3 times more expensive than what you can buy on the street. Still, if you forgot to buy that Khachkar or that ten liter bottle of cognac, you can spend the rest of your trip money here.
Tickets (Toms)Tomsarkeghner ( toms-ahr-kegh-NEHR, îàØê²ðÎÔÜºð: Ticket offices) For immediate flights only: located on the upper level of the third floor (Departures). There is one on the level floor, for locals only. The ticket offices do not post regular hours, and when we were there, all were closed. If you come about three hours before your flight, they should be open. If they aren't, go to the Intourist office (on your right as you enter Entrance III, past the railing, first door on your right), and ask. They can take you to an International ticket office which is always open. You have to have your visa for the country where you are going (in the CIS--visa or valid passport for other countries), and they accept cash only. If there are seats available, they will sell you a ticket plus take you though the whole check-in and customs process. If you don't have a valid visa for the country you are going to, they won't sell you a ticket. This is mostly a kindness with regards Russia, since Russian immigration refuses to acknowledge Armenian visas, even for a three day transit. You have to get one first (See Visas ).
Check-in: The most commonly used word is Russian: ÐÅÃÈÑÒÐÀÖÈß) the Armenian is oo-ghe-vor-nehr-REE hash-var-OOM"). For International fights, this will occur at the VIP service in the older terminal, at the Business Class counter in front of Entrance III or in the International sector for economy class on your right as you pass Entrance III. For all other flights, the counters are located along the outer wall of the terminal. They will have a sign above them (usually in Russian) announcing which flight and destination they serve. They generally do not open until two hours before you leave, though you are invariably told by your ticket agent to show up three hours beforehand (no doubt to sample the duty free wares). Once you have completed registration, check to be sure which gate you are leaving from. They are not always next to your check-in counter.
Waiting Areas: International Flights have waiting areas within the International sector, Business Class and VIP sectors. All other flights have seats along the inner wall of the terminal. There are a number of cafes and bars where you can wait at as well, in the main terminal. Downstairs there is a small café, and toilets.
Boarding Gates: Located along the outer wall of the terminal, boarding gates are between check-in counters. The check-in attendant can tell you which gate is yours. There is usually quite a large crowd in front of the gates when you go to pass through. Half of them are friends and visitors seeing dear ones off, and you will need to push your way through (gently pushing, loudly saying janapar, jan-a-PAHR, "Let me through") to get to the door. There is a final customs clearance (and a look at your passport) before you board the plane.
Get to the plane: By truck, of course! Except for a few international flights, those marvelous mechanized walkways around the terminal are laid to rest. Most flights board the planes from a stairwell pulled up to the side of the plane. After final clearance, passengers are ushered downstairs to the tarmac area, where a large clunky "people truck" is used to escort one and all to the plane.
Excess baggage: In good Soviet form, payment is made at a different location (with a different line) from the check-in counter. When you check-in, they will weigh your bags. If they are over the limit, they will calculate how much you have to pay and write it on a receipt for excess luggage. You take that receipt to the baggage cashier, located behind the check-in counters. The check-in attendant can direct you to the window. You pay the excess amount, receive a stamp showing amount paid, which you take back to the counter to complete ticket registration.