Riivo Tuvike, the new CEO of Tallinn Airport, told daily Postimees that the company is in negotiations with 25-30 airlines with the goal of increasing its network of direct flights. The process, however, will likely prove lengthy.
Despite major infrastructure projects being carried out, such as Rail Baltica, Riga and Helsinki Airports are unlikely to push Tallinn out of the market, as business passengers will still want to travel on direct flights.
"I don't think they'll push us out," Tuvike said. "Business passenger still want to fly directly, not take a bus or train. Flying from Riga or Helsinki is currently possible as well, and ferry traffic is also very good, but [flying] directly from Tallinn is even more convenient."
The possibility has to be taken into consideration, however, as a Rail Baltica terminal will be situated right next to Riga Airport.
"It would be very convenient for Pärnu residents to fly from Riga, and that is something we have to take into account," he added.
The Rail Baltica terminal in Tallinn will be situated 500 meters from Tallinn Airport.
"When the weather is nice, walking this distance will not be a problem, but with rainy days in November, it will not be as convenient," Tuvike said. "We have also discussed this matter with Rail Baltica, and we will definitely also talk to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications about how the two terminals should be connected."
Route needs to carry 40,000 passengers annually
Asked about the lobbying to attract more direct flights from Tallinn, Tuvike said that the process was a lengthy one, and that Tallinn Airport is currently working on 20-30 destinations.
"It all comes down to whether the airline has sufficient resources — that is, planes," he noted, adding that many airlines have overburdened their aircraft and lack the capacity to expand.
"That's when mathematics come in," the CEO continued. "All airlines aim to establish profitable routes. Thus, our commercial team has to prove to the airline that when they start flying from Tallinn, they would have a certain number of passengers right from the start, and there would be more to come.
In order for a route to be profitable, it has to carry 40,000 passengers per year.
"If there are already 20,000 passengers traveling to a destination, getting an additional 20,000 via marketing is feasible," he said. "That's how it starts."
Cultural differences also arise when attempting to attract airlines, Tuvike said.
"In Europe, business is conducted between enterprises," he explained. "When we head toward the East or Middle East, the state level has a very important role to play. A minister's handshake will often take our sales forward by several years. That is crucial."
Regarding flights to the Middle East, Tallinn Airport has been in touch with Qatar Airways and Flydubai.
"A big step has been taken — an agreement has been concluded on the state level," Tuvike highlighted. "But the fact of of the matter is that no decision has been made yet, and the airline is the one who will have a final say in this. We are hoping it will happen soon."
Editor: Aili Vahtla