Changes implemented to Tartu-Helsinki flight schedules this April have not had a positive impact on passenger numbers at Tartu Airport. While August 2016 saw nearly 2,800 passengers on flights served by Tartu Airport, just 2,003 passengers flew on the airport's Tartu-Helsinki-Tartu route last month.
Over the past two years, the decline in passenger numbers has not been exclusive to the month of August, but rather throughout. Tartu Airport manager Argo Annuk nonetheless doesn't consider the decline in passenger numbers concerning, although he admitted that the new flight schedule adopted earlier this year has received negative feedback from holiday travellers. The new schedule, however, allows the Southern Estonian airport to better cater to the needs of business travellers.
"As of the end of this April, the basic logic changed so that the flight [from Helsinki] arrives in Tartu at 00:50 EEST and, according to the current schedule, departs at 5:35," Annuk explained. "This product is aimed more at those travellers who wish to travel early in the morning from Tartu to primarily European destinations via Helsinki, and return to Tartu at night."
Agreements regarding the current flight schedule are valid through the end of 2019. According to Annuk, the early morning flights between Tartu and Helsinki that take place six days a week are only made possible by additional funding.
"All these additional costs involved in changes to the staff and schedule in connection to the fact that we are now open late at night as well are, in all, connected to the same earmarked support from the city [of Tartu]," noted the airport manager. "If the city continues to subsidise this route, and considers it promising, then we are prepared on our part as well. But we cannot serve it from our own budget."
There has been talk about the possibility of direct flights connecting Tartu to Riga and Stockholm as well, but according to Annuk, these hopes are not realistic or sustainable.
Editor: Aili Vahtla