Estonian airlines competed for scheduled routes left open by Finnair

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A SAAB 2000 aircraft, operated by NyxAir. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Finnish airline Finnair dropped multiple local domestic flights in April and the country's transport agency announced a procurement for scheduled flights. Many Estonian companies participated in the tender with one of them succeeding.

State-owned airline Nordica and NyxAir participated in the tender for flights left open from Finnair's decision. "Finnair stopped servicing certain smaller cities and a procurement was organized to service them, where we also participated along with our partners, but we did not win," admitted Nordica CEO Erki Urva.

"Five routes were available. We were able to win two for ourselves," said NyxAir board member Jaanus Ojamets.

Starting in May, NyxAir will fly on the Kemi-Kokkola-Helsinki and Jyväskylä-Helsinki routes. There are six weekly flights with 50-seat Saab 2000 aircrafts used. Therefore, the Tallinn-Helsinki route will also receive a new flight six times a week - Finnair currently only flies once a day.

"We fly under our own name and in our own colors in Finland. It is purely our route," Ojamets confirmed. "These routes are subsidized until the end of this year. After that, we all hope that we can continue on these routes on a commercial basis."

Nyxair employs 80 people, of which 15 are Estonians. The teams to service domestic flights in Finland have now been put together.

In addition, NyxAir's schedule will see an addition with the Swedish domestic Malmö-Bromma route, which was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis. Nordica also operates on one route in Sweden currently, but is actively participating in international tenders.

"We are participating in very many, but it is not too simple to win these procurements, that is clear. It is also quite complicated logistically, if you go somewhere and base your aircraft in another country and send your own team there or find locals," Erki Urva said.

"There is also a situation with public procurement lines, where they do not compensate all flights, the airline provider must take a few risks as well," he added.

While Nordica intends to survive with state aid, NyxAir has instead had a profitable crisis. Last year's record turnover reached €5 million. The three-year old company finished 2020 with a €700,000 profit and is now operating without any loans or financial burdens.

"Exactly one year ago, we had four planes, we are now putting our ninth and tenth on the certificate. We see that our niche is having exactly right-sized aircraft," Ojamets said.

NyxAir initially operated with a focus on cargo flights, but is now mostly carrying passengers. They have one plane in Malta, two cargo aircrafts in Europe for charter flights, two planes are going to Finland and one to Sweden, with one more servicing the Tallinn-Kuressaare route. "The few we have left over are on charter flights," Ojamets said.

The company's aircraft are smaller, fitting 33-50 people. These turned out to be exactly right for the crisis, however, as larger airlines were forced to switch out their giant planes for smaller ones. "Right now, the situation favors us," Ojamets noted.

Nordica is also hoping to exit the crisis, taking their operations from LOT's platform to its own sales system on Amadeus. Erki Urva believes that vacation flights will recover fastest - proven by sold out charter flights. He does not rule out that Nordica could start flying from Tallinn this summer.

"We are thinkin about it," Urva notes without commenting on any exact plans. "If we look at the average capacity of flights today, it is still remarkably low and we can say that save for a few exceptions, practically everyone is burning money flying now."

NyxAir also has plans in store. "We are in discussions in Italy, where we hope to begin. We have flown some regular lines there previously. Some in Germany. We have enough plans," Ojamets said. "All signs point to us finishing this year with a profit as well."

A turboprop aircraft in Nordica livery. Source: Anna Zvereva/Creative Commons

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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