Tartu Airport and Estonia's other smaller airports have been closed in connection with the emergency situation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, but if necessary, they are capable of operation with just two hours' advance notice.
Just a few months ago, there were reports of how Finnair's Tartu-Helsinki route had seen increasing numbers of passengers and improving load factors, and these figures gave rise to the hope that an afternoon flight between Tartu and Helsinki may be added. By now, however, the situation has changed altogether.
In connection with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, air traffic between Tartu and Helsinki has been halted altogether. Future plans for the regional airport have likewise been placed on indefinite hold.
Tallinn Airport CCO Eero Pärgmäe said that Tartu Airport is in fact operating, but only on demand.
"In other words, all charter services that need fulfilling, we can open the airport with two hours' advance notice," Pärgmäe explained. "I think the simplest example is medical flights; if they need to be operated, then the airport will be opened for this."
With advance warning, Tartu Airport is likewise prepared to and capable of serving flights carrying people trying to return home from abroad.
Pärgmäe was unable to answer questions regarding how the pandemic would affect future plans for the airport or employees' wages and workloads, however.
"The readiness is there on our employees' part," the CCO said. "Now considering that over 600 people work for Tallinn Airport, and our volumes have decreased drastically right now, we're actually looking at the employee picture as a whole. This means that at this moment, we have employees in a 'wait and see' situation, so to speak. It is very difficult for us to predict right now ho quickly air traffic will be restored, in what volumes it will be restored, and naturally we are also looking toward state support measures. Right now we're taking things even one week at a time, and perhaps we'll have a clearer picture in a month's time."
As a result of the coronavirus and the resulting loss in demand for air travel, working orders for Estonia's other regional airports changed as of this week as well. Through the end of April, Kuressaare, Kärdla and Pärnu Airports as well as the airstrips on the islands of Kihnu and Ruhnu will be operating with two hours' advance notice in order to serve cargo and medical flights, for example.
"We are actually prepared to serve service flights at all times as well, as quickly as possible," noted Tallinn Airport COO Einari Bambus. "Whether it is a rescue, police or national defense-related flight. Should it so happen that air traffic will be restored sooner, then naturally we will return to our regular operations sooner as well. Should it appear as though things aren't improving, then unfortunately we will have to extend this. I myself am actually more of an optimist and believe that we might just get by with April."
Editor: Aili Vahtla