City of Tartu announces Helsinki flight link procurement

Tartu Airport concourse.
Tartu Airport concourse. Source: Tartu City Government / Ketline Lääts

Tartu has announced a procurement process to reconnect Estonia's second city with Finland's capital, Helsinki.

While the link was in operation as recently as last year, this ended in October 2022; the City of Tartu is utilizing European Commission rules to present a more economically viable tender which will include subsidization from its own budget, in order to attract a new carrier.

Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas (Reform) says the preservation of international air services is crucial for the economic and social development of the city and of the whole of South Estonia.

Klaas said: "The Tartu-Helsinki route will give us the best connectivity with the rest of the world – at the moment, it is possible to fly from Helsinki to more than 80 destinations."

Carriers now have two months in which to submit bids, the city government says, to provide scheduled flights between Tartu and Helsinki airports for a period of four years, starting from January 1, 2024.

Located to the South of the city, Tartu Airport was rebuilt in 2008 after which it was a fully capable regular passenger service facility, though while this attracted the interest of several airlines, linking to Tartu proved unprofitable, the city government itself says.

After more than a decade of uninterrupted service, Finnair, the last operator to ply the route, canceled all flights in 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Finnair resumed service at the end of March last year, but after seven months, it discontinued the route again, in October 2022.

Today, Friday, September 29, the European Commission published a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union on the imposition of a public service obligation, in respect of scheduled air services between Tartu and Helsinki airports. 

This will give the City of Tartu the opportunity to organize a procurement to find an air operator to fulfill the public service obligation and restore the link.

The tender terms and conditions provide for 12 weekly return flights, starting from January 1, 2024.

These will include six flying from Tartu on Monday to Saturday between 5.30 a.m. and 7 a.m., six flights leaving Tartu on Monday to Friday and Sundays between 2 p.m. and 3.45 p.m., plus six flights leaving Helsinki on Monday to Friday and Sundays between 12.45 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. and a further six departing from Helsinki on Monday to Friday and Sundays between 11 p.m. and midnight.

The aircraft used must have a passenger capacity of a minimum of 60 seats.

With last year's termination of direct flights, Tartu City Government, following analysis and consultations with various air operators found that no airline was prepared to operate international flights from Tartu today under the previous market conditions.

However, in a situation of this nature, Article 16 (1) of Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of September 24, 2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community allows for the imposition of a public service obligation on the international route most suitable for the city, and to subsidize flights from Tartu utilizing the budget of the City of Tartu.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Tartu City Government

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