" We aim to collaborate more with various industries in Mongolia, including mining, and customize our flights to meet their needs."

Munkhtamir Batbayar

PRESIDENT & CEO, MIAT (MONGOLIAN AIRLINES)

March 27, 2024

Could you introduce MIAT to our international audience?

MIAT is a 100% state-owned entity that operates out of the Chinggis Khaan International Airport. Established in 1956, the airline began its international operations in 1992, and currently offers services to several key destinations across the globe, including Frankfurt, Istanbul, Seoul, Busan, Tokyo, Osaka, Beijing, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Phuket, and Bangkok. Before the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, MIAT also operated flights to Moscow. 

The pandemic hit the aviation industry hard. How did MIAT recover?

Getting back on our feet after the pandemic years of 2020-2022 was challenging. However, we managed to operate 3,200 flights in 2023, which is comparable to the pre-pandemic levels. Nonetheless, with a population of only 3.3 million people, Mongolia’s market is small, which makes it challenging to achieve the required load for all flights. 

Could you elaborate on MIAT’s growth strategy and international expansion?

Our strategy for growth involves expanding our network by forming partnerships with different airlines. For example, we do not have direct flights to London, but we offer this connection through our partner airlines with a stopover. In August of 2023, the governments of Mongolia and the United States signed an “open skies” agreement, something we have been working on for the past two decades. Last year, we also welcomed our first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and are expecting a second one in the first quarter of this year. This will bring us closer to opening up flights to the US starting from 2024. Our goal for 2025 is to open up new destinations and offer direct flights to Vietnam, Singapore, and Australia. 

Over the past few years, we have been focusing on developing the sixth freedom rights, which allows passengers to be transported between two nations by an airline of a third country, but via its home base, effectively turning Mongolia into a preferred transit hub. As a result of our efforts, we have tripled the number of our transit passengers since 2019. Additionally, foreign investment in the country’s mining, renewable energy, and other sectors has increased international travel into Mongolia.

MIAT offers direct flights to the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) site. How important is the mining sector to the airline?

As part of our strategy, we aim to collaborate more with various industries in Mongolia, including mining, and customize our flights to meet their needs. Our collaboration with the OT mining site serves as a great example. Since 2015, we have provided around 30 flights per week to the OT site. During the pandemic, when we faced a severe cash flow crunch due to low demand, we negotiated an agreement with the CEO of OT for long-term discounted trips paid upfront. This helped us inject much-needed cash to pay for our employees and keep the business afloat. I previously worked for OT for six and a half years before joining MIAT, and I am confident that the mining sector can offer many opportunities to MIAT and the country itself.

As the aviation industry is becoming more regulated, how is MIAT approaching sustainability?

Our main strategy is to increase our fuel efficiency by acquiring less fuel-intensive aircraft and upgrading our existing fleet with software that can reduce fuel consumption. Additionally, we have introduced the paperless cockpit concept, which we are now expanding to our back office operations. 

Mongolia initiated the ‘Welcome to Mongolia’ three-year campaign, which started in 2023. In your opinion, how could Mongolia attract more visitors to the country?

Logistics plays a vital role in enabling more people to visit Mongolia. To increase Mongolia’s global presence, we need to make it convenient for people to come here, and that is where MIAT comes into play. Though we are not as big as Turkish Airlines or Emirates and cannot fly to everywhere, we can expand our network of partnerships to connect with every city in the world, making it easier for people to travel to Mongolia with just one to two stops. Mongolia is a unique country with a rich culture, beautiful nature, and business opportunities that the world needs to explore. By ensuring efficient logistics at an affordable price, we can attract more attention to our country. From 2023 to 2025, the Mongolian government launched the ‘Welcome to Mongolia’ campaign to make tourism one of the main pillars of the economy. 

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