AirBaltic not planning to increase departures from Riga, Tallinn
Latvia's AirBaltic is not currently planning to add more departures to Riga and Tallinn airports after budget airline Ryanair announced the closures of several routes last week.
AirBaltic increased its passenger and departures numbers last year after coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted.
The company sees Ryanair's actions as normal changes to the market and does not think hasty reactionary decisions need to be made.
CEO Martin Gauss and the Ministry of Transport said the company had recovered from the pandemic and their planes are flying at full capacity.
"The summer season is already on sale, so we have our capacity. We do not have more airplanes which we can place somewhere. But as the year develops there is sometimes the opportunity to add something. And if there is something which makes sense to be added in Tallinn then of course we will do it. Each season there are adjustments, this summer we will use all 42 aircraft. So, we need to wait to get more aircraft next year and then maybe we will put more aircraft in Tallinn," said Gauss.
The company's operations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are expanding. There has been a rise in the transport of cargo and mail, not only passengers.
Latvian Transport Minister Janis Vitenbergs said AirBaltic is always on the lookout for new destinations.
"Tampere, Finland, is this year's most important destination. Of course, we will not have it easy. The corona period had an impact on the entire aviation sector, and on us in particular, because we are located close to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and therefore on the border of a war zone," he said.
Gauss said the company's market share dropped by 4 percent last year due to a lack of capacity. This summer, he predicts, will be a "strong" one.
"But, yes, competition is there. We have competition everywhere, In Riga, it's Ryanair, the main competitor used to be Ryanair in Tallinn, but it becomes Finnair and Lufthansa. It changes every year," he said.
At Riga Airport in January, 51 percent of passengers flew with AirBaltic and 32 percent with Ryanair, which is normal. The number of departures has returned to the pre-pandemic level.
Last week, Ryanair announced it would shut seven routes from Tallinn, citing high fees. It took similar action in Lithuania.
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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright