New procurement declared for air service interrupted by Avies suspension (1)

An Avies plane. (Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix)
4/8/2016 5:50 PM
Category: Business

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications declared a procurement to find a new airline to restore air service to the Estonian islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa, which was interrupted when the Estonian Civil Aviation Administration (ECAA) suspended the airline Avies’ license for six months last week.

The ministry declared a procurement to find a provider for air service between Tallinn and Kuressaare and Tallinn and Kärdla. Anyone with a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and Operational License is welcome to apply.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has warned travelers that a break is likely in air service between the islands and the mainland and that ferries should be used for travel between the two in the meantime. They hope to find a new air service provider by the Midsummer's Day national holiday on June 24.

The ministry stressed that they would like to restore air service as soon as possible, and that the speediest solution for this would be a procurement procedure with unannounced negotiations in which it would be possible to negotiate with all qualified businesses.

If Avies is able to rectify the 47 deficiencies not in compliance with aviation safety standards which led to the suspension of their AOC, they will be eligible to apply for the procurement as well. Avies may also cooperate with another carrier to present a joint application.

Possible replacements include SkyTaxi, Nordica

When Avies had their AOC suspended for six months beginning last week, interrupting all air service between the Estonian capital and its two biggest islands, they promptly made arrangements for Polish airline SkyTaxi to take over in their place on Tallinn-Kuressaare and Tallinn-Kärdla routes beginning on April 11, according to ERR’s radio news. The Polish airline would offer flights on the two domestic routes on its 33-seat Saab 340 twin-engine turboprop aircraft.

According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, however, while they did receive Avies’ application, the head of the ministry’s Aviation and Maritime Department, Taivo Linnamägi, found that “...the company’s effort is commendable, however we consider [their] appointment of another airline to be inadmissible according to the Public Procurement Act.” Thus, the ministry could not confirm SkyTaxi to take over Avies’ flights.

Nordica has also shown an interest in the procurement. Estonia’s new national airline confirmed that they had not yet reached a decision, however if the conditions of the procurement were suitable, they would consider applying.

Estonian daily “Eesti Päevaleht” (link in Estonian) wrote on Wednesday that Kalju Albert, manager of Pakker Avio, which offers chartered flights and pilot training, had also not yet ruled out participation in the procurement, but would first have to review the documents involved.

Airest CEO and Accountable Manager Jaanus Ojamets, whose airline’s fleet currently included cargo planes and one 33-seat passenger aircraft, agreed to at least review the procurement conditions.

Märten Vaikmaa, whose Nordic Jet fleet includes two helicopters and two six-seater aircraft, immediately ruled out regular flights to the Estonian islands as the airline did not have the certificates necessary for the job. Also uninterested in the opportunity were business air charter airline Panaviatic and Moscow-based small aircraft operator Fort Aero.

Avies’ 90 problems

Domestic airline Avies, who had served routes to Kuressaare, Kärdla, and Stockholm, serving a total of 12,000 on its Tallinn-Kuressaare route alone in summer 2015, was forced to cease all flight operations when its license was suspended on April 1.

The ECAA stated that Avies had partially failed to meet requirements guaranteeing compliance with aviation safety standards and suspended its AOC for six months or until they were able to rectify all cited violations. While its AOC is suspended, Avies is prohibited from operating any flights whatsoever.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications confirmed that Avies had already been under scrutinty and so the state had already prepared for the possibility of having to declare a new procurement for their routes.

ECAA Director General Kristjan Telve explained that Avies had been sent a warning in late February citing a number of violations and was asked to resolve them by March 24.

According to Telve, a number of documents from the airline arrived by March 24, however, it turned out that a number of violations remained either unaddressed or undocumented.

The ECAA had cited Avies for a total of 90 violations, of which 47 remained unresolved by the March 24 deadline.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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