It has been almost two years since airline NyxAir began using a larger, 48-seat aircraft on its flights between Tallinn and Kuressaare, capital of Estonia's biggest island Saaremaa. In that time, the company has managed to more than double the average number of passengers on those flights. Demand for tickets to make weekend trips to Kuressaare now regularly exceed supply and seats are often sold out well in advance.
"I fly to Tallinn every week. Work is there and family is here (on Saaremaa). The plane is more practical than the car, and it saves time and money too," Fleur, who uses the route regularly, told ERR.
The 48-seater plane, which has been flying the route for two years, has increased its average passenger load from 30 percent of capacity, in the first few months after it was introduced, to 63 percent this September. In July this year, the average load was even as high as 79 percent of the aircraft's full capacity.
"We can say that 50 percent (of passengers) are local people. There are also people from Tallinn who come here on business, and there are tourists," says Merle Randla, senior customer service representative at Kuressaare Airport.
The high passenger numbers on the flights have even encouraged NyxAir to start thinking about introducing a larger plane, as weekend trips now sell out well in advance. However, there are currently no bigger aircraft available that could be used to do so.
"At the moment we don't have another line that we can switch (a bigger plane in) from, but maybe we will think of something for the summer, because (last) summer the average load was actually really good, regardless of the day," said NyxAir CEO Jaanus Ojamets.
While rising fuel prices, which have increased by almost €1 per liter, are compensated by the Estonian state, other costs needed to operate the route have also skyrocketed over the past two years.
This could mean, that even despite the high passenger numbers, the company may still end up suffering losses on the Tallinn – Kuressaare – Tallinn route this winter.
"(We have already had) the first snow on the plane, which we needed to de-ice. 400 liters of de-icing fluid were used, which, a year ago, would have cost about €800. However, this year it cost €1600," said Ojamets. Fortunately, we also have flights, which go outside Estonia - to Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy - which make up for the seasonal losses that we are bound to have on this route over the winter," Ojamets said.
Ojamets added, that the Transport Administration has no plans to increase fare on the Tallinn - Kuressaare - Tallinn route in the near future, with tickets currently costing €26.
Editor: Michael Cole