European Commission transport chief: Nordica should fly from Tallinn

Henrik Hololei.
Henrik Hololei. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

If we have a state-owned airline, it would be elementary for it to fly to destinations other than the home airport, Henrik Hololei, head of the European Commission's Chief-General for Mobility and Transport said.

Hololei told ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" that the Baltic aviation market is small but functioning.

"How the Estonian state-owned airline (Nordica - ed.) continues to operate is a question for the owner. If we have a state-owned airline, it would be elementary for it to fly to destinations other than the home airport. Today it doesn't. Will it be the future of the airline, is a question for the owners," Hololei said.

He said that the temporary framework for state aid in aviation will last until the end of the year and then return to the usual before the pandemic.

"State aid in aviation is allowed to be granted on market terms once every 10 years. During the pandemic, the possibilities have been different than under normal circumstances. As a result, different airlines have received state aid injections during the pandemic that they would not otherwise receive. "But these current money injections must also be legal, and we will check them," Hololei said.

Many airlines have received help with state aid during the pandemic, which Hololei thinks is reasonable because the pandemic has been unfair, especially to the tourism and transport sectors.

"On the other hand, there are also airlines that have not received a penny of aid and fly the most today. The best example is Ryanair. Today they have 87 percent of the flights they had before the pandemic. While those airlines that have received large subsidies fly somewhere over 50 percent."

Hololei explained that if the company is flexible and able to adapt quickly to different market conditions, it will be able to emerge even in such a difficult situation as the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need common airspace to be maintained in Europe. It has made aviation accessible and cheap. That is why we need airlines. But competition is what moves forward, not some administrative techniques. And we must maintain that competition in every situation."

Hololei considers countries closing their borders one of the biggest mistakes during the coronavirus pandemic because it made people lose all desire to travel.

"You didn't know where you were going. What the conditions are. Do you have to stay in quarantine. What documents do you have to have. It was all a very big setback. And it took a year and a half to get over it."

Hololei said that the digital COVID certificate, which came into force on July 1, has significantly helped to restore European aviation.

"Such steps should have been taken much, much earlier. But this pandemic came as a surprise to all of us and we could not react immediately. The most important lesson to take with it is that there will no longer be a situation where everything is closed."


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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