Travelling to Georgia directly from Western Europe or North America, you have little choice but to fly; Tbilisi airport, 15km east of the centre, has a modern terminal opened in 2007 and a growing range of international flights. You can check (www.tbilisiairport.com) for flights information. However, almost all the schedules are pretty inconvenient and there are no longer any direct flights from London.
The only British carrier is BMI (British Midland International), a subsidiary the Lutfhansa group and a Star Alliance partner that flys A321 Airbuses from London Heathrow (Terminal 1) to Tbilisi via Baku. Flights take 7,5 hours to Tbilisi.
Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa also connect with flights from London Heathrow, London City (Lufthansa) and Manchester (Lufthansa). Austrian fly three times weekly, leaving Vienna at 18.00 on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, returning at 16.25 on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday - Austrian fly from London to Vienna, and Vienna to London, thrice daily. Lufthansa has flights six nights a week from Munich, arriving at 03.55 (with connections from Heathrow at 11.05 and 13.05). Ukraine International Airways have flights via Kiev daily at 19.10, arriving Tbilisi at 23.30. The return flight is at the very inconvenient time of 05.05. However, there are decent connections with flights to London Gatwick South in both directions. Polish Airlines Lot have flights from Warsaw on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 22.30, arriving Tbilisi at 04.50, returning on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 05.40, with a convenient connection to Heathrow.
There's also Turkish Airlines (THY), which flies twice daily from Istanbul at 13.20 and 23.25, with a connection from London Heathrow at 07.55 or 16.10 which gets you to Tbilisi at 17.35 or 03.40 (returning at 05.15 and 18.25). The budget Turkish carrier Pegasus has daily flights from London Stansted via Istanbul S Goken that depart Stansted at 12.50 and arrive Tbilisi at 03.20. Return flights leave Tbilisi at 06.30 to arrive London Stansted at 12.10. This is relatively cheap, from around Ј200 return, but as well as highly inconvenient arrival and departure times at Tbilisi it requires a five-hour stopover at Istanbul S Gokijen, a very uninteresting - and expensive -airport on the outward leg. Air Baltic also offers cheap flights from Riga, at 23.55 on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving in Tbilisi at 05.25 and returning at 07.40 on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in winter, and on every day except Saturday in summer at either 20.25 or 23.55, arriving Tbilisi at 0.55 or 04.25 and returning at 03.25 or 06.40. Flights from London Gatwick (370-530 GBP return including taxes) require anything between a two- and 12-hour stopover in Riga. Return fares from London start at about Ј325-550 including taxes, depending on the season.
From New York, return fares to Tbilisi usually start at about US$800 plus taxes; from California they start at US$1200 plus taxes. It's worth noting that quite often there's a substantially cheaper fare to Yerevan. Far cheaper fares are available to Istanbul (from as little as Ј60 return with easyjet or Pegasus from Britain, with luck), from where you can travel overland (see below).
The main Georgian operator is Georgian Airways (still sometimes referred to as Air Zena). In 1991 the Georgian division of Aeroflot became Orbi Georgian Airlines; it flew ancient Soviet planes and maintained them so badly that US embassy staff were not permitted to use the airline; in 1999 the charter line Airzena bought the bankrupt Georgian Airlines, as it now is, and Air Georgia, and the state now holds just 20% of the company. In 2000 it leased two Boeing 737s (it now has a fleet of 11), which fly to Amsterdam, Athens, Dubai, Frankfurt, Kiev, Paris, Vienna, Minsk and Tel Aviv.
There's also Sky Georgia (formerly known as Georgian National Airlines) which has just two DC-9-51 jets flying from Tbilisi to Kiev, Minsk and Antalya.
For a while there were no direct air links between Georgia and Russia, and to travel to or from Moscow it was necessary to go first to Yerevan or Baku.T he Russian company S7 (Siberian Airlines) has now resumed flights between Tbilisi and Moscow. UM Air (Ukrainsko-Sredizemnomorskiye Avialinii or Ukrainian-Mediterranean Airlines) and Aerosvit fly between Kiev and Tbilisi, Armavia flies to Yerevan, and Azerbaijan Airlines flies daily from Baku. Tickets for flights within the CIS are most easily bought at Aviakassa counters, in all major towns. Fares from London to Moscow start at about 250GBP/US$400 return, and from Moscow to Tbilisi at about 90GBP/US$140 each way.
Airport transfer: Bus route 37 (a yellow midi bus) runs every 20-30 minutes from 07.00-19.30 from the airport along the Kakheti highway to Samgori (where an underpass leads to railway, metro and bus stations), Avlabari, the Baratashvilis bridge, Freedom Square, Rustaveli, Kostavas and Tamar avenues, giving a handy tour of the central area, and after half an hour reaching the Voksal (railway station), where they leave from a relatively obvious stop on the down ramp road. It costs just GEL0.50 (US$0.30), you only pay when you get off. It operates from 07.00 to 19.30 (06.30-19.00 from the city); at other times you'll have to take a taxi or a train. Taxis cost around GEL20-25 (US$12-15) by day, or GEL30 (US$17) at night, usually after 20.00 The airport's new railway terminal opened for business in 2008. Trains run day and night at roughly three-hour intervals between Voksal and the airport, taking around 25 minutes and costing GEL2 (pay on board). Departure times from the airport tend to be linked to international flight arrivals.