Mayor hits out at civil servant's criticism of Hiiumaa flight links

A NyxAir ATR 42-500 plane (pictured on Saaremaa). The carrier services Hiiumaa's flight link also, albeit usually with a smaller plane.
A NyxAir ATR 42-500 plane (pictured on Saaremaa). The carrier services Hiiumaa's flight link also, albeit usually with a smaller plane. Source: Mait Ots / ERR

The head of local government on the island of Hiiumaa has hit out at statements made by a state official that flight connections between the island and the mainland represented an abuse of taxpayers' funds.

Hergo Tasuja (SDE), the mayor of Hiiumaa Rural Municipality, said that Transport Administration (Transpordiamet) Director Priit Sauk's remarks on the continued flight link between the island of around 10,000 permanent inhabitants, and the mainland, was an abuse of state money, had been unfortunate.

Tasuja told ERR that: "In my view, it is very unfortunate when a public official sends out such messages. It seems that he had not fully understood what office he heads up."

Tasjua also said that Sauk's statement, made in an interview with "Teejuht", the agency's newsletter (link in Estonian) that the average flight carried "two or three civil servants" was false.

"In fact, the statistics we have on air travel state very clearly that air travel is on the rise; last year there were 12 percent more air passengers than the year before," he said, adding that trend for growth was set to continue.

"This is not a convenience service, the state's task is to ensure opportunities and connections across the country," he went on, noting Hiiumaa is as integral a part of the State of Estonia as anywhere else in Estonia.

The flight link is also essential in relation to the healthcare sector, Tasuja added, since around 15 specialists routinely shuttle between the island and the major Tallinn hospitals.

The same journey made by bus would take four hours each way, he added.

Sauk had written in Teejuht that the service was an abuse of state and taxpayer funds, adding that the ferry connection between neighboring Saaremaa and the mainland is, by contrast, "too busy during the off-peak season."

The tender to connect Hiiumaa with the mainland was awarded to NyxAir, an Estonian carrier, last year. It had previously been serviced by Transaviabaltika, a Lithuanian company.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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