On the Ramp in Tbilisi with Eduard Mnatsakanyan
If you want to know how to run an entire airport, ask our Country Manager for Georgia Eduard Mnatsakanyan. Having worked as Director of Kutaisi airport for seven years and with 20 years of experience in aviation, he is always aiming to provide an impeccable customer experience. Along with his team stationed at three Georgian airports in Tbilisi (UGTB/TBS), Kutaisi (UGKO/KUT) and Batumi (UGSB/BUS), Eduard manages an operation ready to support any flight headed to this beautiful Caucasus region country.
Eduard, you have years of experience working in aviation and know the industry from many different angles. Can you tell us about your career path?
I got my first job at Tbilisi airport in 2002. As a young guy involved in operations on the ramp and working around the clock, I felt the heavy responsibility of ensuring a safe departure for each aircraft. While exciting, it was also stressful. I then worked for Georgian Airlines as a Ramp Manager and afterwards at Tbilisi airport where I was eventually promoted to Airport Duty Manager. Most employees could not speak English, so my language skills were a big advantage.
A few years later when I lived in the Czech Republic and then Ukraine, I gained experience from the airline side of the aviation business. At Ukrainian Helicopters I worked as Head of Flight Coordination, especially for flights going to various African countries working on United Nations projects.
How did your cooperation with Euro Jet begin?
While working at Kyiv’s Zhuliany airport for Avia Handling, I was approached by Euro Jet to work on flights related to the 2012 Euro Cup.
After the event I went back to Georgia and was hired as Airport Director of the newly built Kutaisi airport. All my experience from previous positions paid off and I managed the airport until 2019. During this time, I cooperated with Euro Jet on their flights and in 2019 I became Euro Jet’s Country Manager for Georgia.
What do you see as the best thing about your job in Euro Jet? And what on the other hand are the biggest challenges you are facing?
The best part is that I feel like a member of the Euro Jet family as the company takes care of me and is very supportive. There is no better motivation for an employee than to feel valued and supported not just by senior management, but by everyone working in the company. The challenge I face is the continuous learning, as there are always new aspects of my work that are forever changing and evolving.
As a Country Manager you oversee the airports in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi. How do you manage all that?
I live in Tbilisi and personally work on all the flights here. In Kutaisi and Batumi we have our reliable teams of aviation professionals. At both airports, Euro Jet partners with Discovery Ground Handling and TAV who are extremely supportive of all our operations. I have personally trained all the staff that work on Euro Jet flights. Of course, I also travel to these airports, when necessary, though our teams there do such a good job.
Can you please introduce your team at the three airports?
At Tbilisi airport, the busiest one, in addition to myself, all Euro Jet flights are supervised by my colleague David Buzaladze. We make a great team!
At Batumi airport our flights are supported by my colleagues Anna, Sabina, and Hatija and at Kutaisi by my colleague Tamara. All of them are some of the best handling support agents in the industry. We are always ready for any new challenge.
What type of flights do you mostly receive in Georgia? Are they related to tourism, business, or perhaps some special events?
We support a wide range of flights in Georgia. There are business jets, military aircraft, and special governmental flights. Thanks to Georgia’s rich cultural and music scene, we also receive DJs and music stars flying private for big music events such as the GEM Festival. Kutaisi is also frequently used as a tech stop.
Last year, you participated in the Afghanistan rescue missions. Can you tell us more about this operation from the ground support perspective?
We cooperated on this mission with the United Nations and supported more than 50 flights, most of them during the night. We had to pay close attention to every passenger and their belongings. This operation really required a special focus. I was impressed by the brave families who travelled on these flights along with their courageous attitude during an unthinkable circumstance.
That is remarkable. What is it about the aviation industry that you find fascinating even after all those years of experience?
The unique rush of adrenaline I get and never-ending challenges. In the Czech Republic I worked for a while outside of the aviation field. But after two months when an airplane flew over my head, I knew instantly that I had to go back to the airport. It didn’t matter what kind of job, I just needed to access the ramp and experience the smell of jet fuel again!
People who work in aviation and around aircraft do not have to explain why they do it. Aviation professionals from around the world all speak the same language. We are members of one very large family.
Let’s talk a bit about your country, Georgia. It is a not so well-known destination. What would you say every traveler must see when they visit?
This question is difficult – there are too many places worth visiting. We have beautiful high mountains with ski resorts as well as a 90-km long coastline. Georgia is also famous for its spa resorts with healing mineral water. Every hot spring and mineral pool have different healing properties and focus on a specific medical area. And do not forget, the capital Tbilisi is a great city, including a well-preserved old town with ancient streets and architecture going back centuries.
How about a favorite Georgian dish and drink? Georgia has one of the oldest wine making traditions in the world, right?
Yes, wine making is our ancient tradition, particularly in the eastern part of the country. From small local producers to world famous brands - we have it all.
Cuisine is also a huge part of the Georgian culture. When you visit, you must try our barbecue, kebabs, Chakapuli (stew made of lamb, cherries, tarragon), and Khinkali (Georgian dumplings). Georgians are famous for their hospitality and being invited to the Georgian table is a special experience as our meals are served in a particular way and every glass must be accompanied not just with a simple toast but with a story. And as the night goes on, the stories get longer and longer!
That sounds like a lot of fun. What languages do you speak?
I speak Georgian, Armenian, Russian, and English. With my family, we might mix all four languages in our conversation.
Wow, as long as you understand each other…. When you are not working at the airport, how do you like to spend your time?
I own a piece of land in the mountains, and I started building a house there so that is what I dedicate my free time to doing. It is going slowly but my friends are helping me.
Eduard, thank you so much for sharing your experience and introducing Georgia to us. One last question. What are your plans for the future?
I am in a good place right now with a great career, solid knowledge of aviation and many contacts in the business. I am excited to take Euro Jet Georgia to the next level and further develop our operation. I am always ready for new challenges.
Images: Euro Jet Archive, Shutterstock