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Air traffic sector battling with lessened workload and incomes

Tallinn Airport.
Tallinn Airport. Source: Tallinn Airport

Traveler numbers in Tallinn Airport for October were down to a tenth of what they were in 2019 with the number of flights from Estonia also down drastically, having reached a third of pre-crisis levels. In addition, air traffic services are set to lay off a quarter of their employees by year's end.

Recent increases in coronavirus (COVID-19) rates in Europe have taken its toll on tourism, with Tallinn Airport passed through by just 35,000 travelers in the month of October.

Tallinn Airport's commercial director Eero Pärgmäe said: "Compared to last year, the drops is still great, it is only 11 percent of last year's capacity. The lowest point was actually March-April, when flights were very scarce. What is positive about the situation today is that the government has allowed some flights. We are operating to 12 destinations."

The slump in flight numbers does not only affect airports, however. Overflight fees were a profitable section for the state, as Estonian airspace is passed through by flights travelling to destinations all over the world.

Last year, state-owned Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS' turnover reached €28 million with a total profit of €3.2 million. A severe drop is expected in all economic indicators for 2020.

Ivar Värk, chairman of the board at Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS, said: "In March, air traffic dropped about 83 percent from what it was last year. Currently, it is down about 63 percent. This year, fees decreased ca 55 percent, meaning our turnover has decreased by 55 percent compared to last year. This means that we are carrying a loss of ca €7 million this year."

As turnover has dropped significantly and salaries account for 60 percent of expenses at Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS, the institution can only pay salaries and nothing more. The overflight center, having formerly employed a few dozen people, currently has three people working.

Värk noted: "We started the year with some 230 people and will finish the year with 170. This means that we have had to lay off about a fifth of our people."

Estimatedly, the center must work at a reduced regime for five years. At the same time, an experienced air traffic controller is paid around €4000 a month.

Värk explained: "We do not have such salaries, all salaries have decreased. We reduced wages by 30 percent in the summer. Now we have restored those, because it is not a long-term measure to motivate people to work at the same capacity with lessened wages."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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