On the Ramp in Bishkek with Andrey Lim
Andrey Lim is Euro Jet’s Country Manager for Kyrgyzstan, and regional manager for the CIS Countries, which includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Mongolia. As if this is not enough, he also works remote for our Euro Jet OCC covering shifts. A true expert on general aviation in Central Asia, Andrey shares with us his career path, introduces us to the local aviation set-up and the must-sees of his country, and reminds us that the best part of an aviator’s job are the people and the relationships you form with them.
Andrey, you are one of Euro Jet’s biggest experts on general aviation in the Central Asian region. What brought you into this business at the very beginning?
A coincidence. It was in August 2000; I was in my 3rd year at University and looking for a summer internship. A private company based out of Bishkek’s Manas Airport was looking for an administrator with good English skills for their newly opened VIP lounge. I went to the interview and got the job.
I started accompanying passengers through immigration and was later promoted to Shift Leader. I was then invited to join the airport’s newly established Administration department as an Analyst, a position more consistent with my major, Business Administration. Within a couple years, I was promoted to the Head of Strategic Development of Manas Airport and became one of the youngest employees to hold such a high-ranking position.
You must understand that Kyrgyzstan’s political development over the past 20 years has been turbulent with three revolutions taking place in 2005, 2010, and 2020. This also affected my aviation career. In 2005, I went back to work in the VIP lounge and then I joined the airport’s local handling company which gave me proper experience in working on the ramp.
You have been with Euro Jet for over 10 years now. How did this cooperation begin?
After some years, I became the Marketing Director of the handling company and served as their main point of contact with all foreign partners. This is how I met Marina Abdushkureva (Euro Jet’s Regional General Manager) and Tomas Chobot (Euro Jet’s COO) who were flying to Kyrgyzstan to ensure proper handling for all Euro Jet flights. In 2013, they concluded I could be an important asset and invited me to work exclusively for Euro Jet.
In your current role as Euro Jet’s Country Manager for Kyrgyzstan, you are also responsible for overseeing operations in the neighboring countries. Can you please introduce the local set-up?
On a daily basis, I personally supervise flights arriving in Bishkek (UCFM/FRU). I also have direct responsibility for Euro Jet’s operations in Kazakhstan as it is close not only geographically but also with regards to language and culture. We have excellent relations with our handlers at the two biggest airports, Almaty (UAAA/ALA) and Astana (UACC/NQZ), and I often am there to provide flight supervision.
Euro Jet’s flights in Uzbekistan are directly supervised by our Station Manager, Anton Korotkov. He is based out of Tashkent airport (UTTT/TAS), Uzbekistan’s capital, and we are in touch almost every day. I am also assigned responsibility for flights in Turkmenistan and Mongolia. These are quite challenging locations, but we manage them successfully thanks to our trusted local vendors.
Throughout my region, I know personally almost every vendor and every member of their operations team. Having good personal relationships is of great importance here – it allows the operation to run smoothly and more efficiently, and it is so much more fun.
At the same time, you also work shifts in our Operations Center. What is your role there?
I started helping out our OCC over the busy summer season and now I regularly cover a few shifts a month. It gives me great insight into the complexity of their work – it is truly impressive to experience the magnitude of information on individual airports, countries, and their regulations all around the world of which the Ops must have active knowledge. I have a great respect for them and always emphasize the importance of quick communication and strong support between our local on-the-ground teams and the Ops Center.
Let’s focus now on Kyrgyzstan. Which are the busiest airports in the country and what are their specificities?
Kyrgyzstan has three international airports: Bishkek-Manas (UCFM/FRU), Issyk-kul (UCFL-IKU), and Osh (UCFO/OSS). A fourth airport is currently under construction.
Bishkek-Manas is the most important airport for business aviation due to its proximity to the capital city. The airport has one terminal with a VIP lounge but no separate GAT. There is a special terminal called Manas 2 or the Hall of Official Delegations which is dedicated solely to welcoming governmental delegations.
Issyk-kul is located near the lake of the same name. The traffic there is very seasonal and driven by summer vacations, so the airport gets busy only during the three summer months. Osh is mostly frequented by commercial flights. Both are smaller airports – the largest aircraft that can land there is the size of a 757.
Are there any special regulations that customers have to keep in mind when flying to Kyrgyzstan?
At all airports under my supervision, we offer the same extent of services as anywhere else in Euro Jet’s core region. The only thing to be aware of is that some processes might be a bit more challenging than what you are used to from other destinations. For example, obtaining a permit in Kyrgyzstan requires several approvals from different governmental branches. The Ministry of Transportation works standard local business hours, so when we recently received a last-minute request, we literally had to wake up the person in charge late at night to obtain the permit in time. We go above and beyond to help our customers in different time zones and with various schedules, but it is good to keep in mind when planning a trip that some procedures might take a bit longer than expected.
What kind of clients and types of flights do you service most in Kyrgyzstan?
The majority of our flights in Kyrgyzstan are diplomatic. When it comes to private aviation, the traffic is mostly driven by foreign operators as there are not many individuals in our region who would own private aircraft.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are also very good tech stops – Almaty, Bishkek, and Tashkent are the best tech stops on the way from Europe to China, Japan, or South Korea.
What would you recommend to anyone arriving to Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan with a bit of time on their hands to see and experience during their stay?
Our nation was predominantly nomadic throughout its history so we don’t have much architecture dating back to ancient times like they do in Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan’s main draw is its nature and mountains. A part of the Tian Shan mountain range lies within our territory with several peaks reaching over 6,000 meters. There are also beautiful mountain lakes with Issyk-kul being the most popular one.
Even if you are staying only in Bishkek, taking a short trip to the mountains is very much recommended and possible – the Ala Archa National Park is just an hour drive from the capital. In Bishkek’s city center, a visit to a good local restaurant is a must.
What favorite Kyrgyz meal and drink should one order in such a restaurant?
Besh Barmak is a traditional Kyrgyz meal containing noodles and meat. It should typically be horse meat as the tradition dates back to nomadic times but you can also have it with beef or lamb.
As for a drink, vodka is of course easy to come by. But we also have many non-alcoholic drinks made from wheat, corn, barley, or milk. The most popular is called Maksym and considered the national drink of modern Kyrgyzstan. Very tasty!
It all sounds delicious! Final question, after all these years in aviation, what do you enjoy most about your work?
It is all about the people I work with. Sharing ideas, thoughts and experiences with my colleagues and learning back from them is how I keep moving forward. It’s the people and my relationships with them that make my work so enjoyable. And then it’s like that saying that if you like your place of work, you will not work a day.
Images: Euro Jet Archive, Shutterstock