Two special flights laid on to permit citizens and residents from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to return from the United Kingdom will between them carry over 100 people to Estonia itself, Baltic News Service reports.
As reported on ERR News, Estonian state-owned airline Nordica announced it would be operating a return flight between Tallinn and London Gatwick, to allow both Estonians stuck in the U.K. after the EU halted flight links last week to return home, and those in Estonia wishing to get to the U.K. to do the same.
Flights were canceled after a new strain of coronavirus thought to be far more contagious than varieties so far found was identified in the U.K., which recently struck a deal with the EU ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
The Nordica flight has at the time of writing already departed Tallinn, and will leave for the return trip from Gatwick at around 11.00 a.m. U.K. time. Tickets cost a reported €250, one-way.
airBaltic flight went Monday
Latvian state-owned carrier airBaltic also operated a special flight, for the same reason, which flew on Monday and was used by citizens of Estonia and Lithuania as well as Latvia.
The two flights between them will pick up between 124 and 140 people who had registered on the Estonian foreign ministry's travel portal as needing to return to Estonia from the U.K., BNS reports.
The logistics required close work between the foreign ministries of all three states, which Estonia's foreign ministry says has been successful.
"The Foreign Ministry's cooperation with Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministries has been constructive, and has helped find common solutions in this difficult situation," ministry spokespeople told BNS.
Monday's airBaltic flight saw 48 seats going to Estonian citizens and residents, via the foreign ministry's mediation, BNS reports, though whether tickets for all of these were purchased – at a cost of €220 – and used, is not known, the ministry says.
People from all three Baltic States using special flights
Those touching down in Riga Monday destined for Estonia would still have had to arrange a flight from Riga to Tallinn.
Nordica's Tuesday flight will similarly carry Latvian and Lithuanian nationals, though figures for these have not been reported. BNS reports that the flight was almos tfully booked as of Sunday, however. Tallinn as the northernmost Baltic capital is less conveniently situated than Riga, in the center.
Seventy-six Estonian citizens and residents had booked on the Nordica flight, BNS says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced its flight ban on Sunday, December 20, in conjunction with its counterparts in the other two Baltic States, and was joined by several other EU countries, ultimately all 27 of them.
Estonian citizens and residents registered with foreign ministry
Those who had registered their U.K. stay on the ministry's travel portal were contacted to ascertain if they needed urgent travel home, before New Year's Day, when the U.K. flight ban will be lifted as things stand.
One flight from London to Tallinn still flew Monday morning (December 21) due to the short notice on the ban announcement, which was made Sunday evening.
Three days later, the Estonian government also imposed coronavirus quarantine requirements in addition to those required of citizens of any European nation with a reported 14-day rate of 50 or more per 100,000 inhabitants (at present all states save the Vatican and Iceland – ed.).
This means arrivals from the U.K. in Estonia, including those who made the two emergency flights, will have to quarantine for 14 days rather than the current 10 days for other countries. Returning negative on a COVID-19 test on arrival, and passing a second one negative seven days later, can shorten this period.
Editor: Andrew Whyte