Responding to a query by MPs regarding air service on the route connecting Tallinn with Kuressaare, which highlighted that Saaremaa residents have expressed their wish for more departures and a larger aircraft to be put on the route, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said that what matters most is that passengers have the best possible air and ferry links with the mainland by the next high season.
Query signatories asked the prime minister to elaborate on the activities planned for fulfilling a promise that a good air link, along with a larger aircraft, would be provided on the route.
In his response, Ratas said that €5.53 million has been set aside in the 2019 state budget for air service provision, noting that this sum also includes the financing of air service to the small island of Ruhnu.
For subsequent periods, €5.73 million per year has been earmarked in the state budget, which must ensure that air links improve between the Estonian mainland and Saaremaa, as the route will be operated by a larger plane.
Following an amendment to the Public Transport Act that entered into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications handed over the concluding of procurement contracts in public air service provision to the Road Administration.
Ratas said that the organization of air traffic was impacted by a review of a public contract award. A decision by the Road Administration not to regard a bid by Regional Jet, a subsidiary of the Estonian state-owned airline Nordica, as meeting procurement requirements contradicted the Public Procurement Act insofar as it concerned the Tallinn-Kuressaare-Tallinn route and was declared invalid.
In order to ensure the continued provision of services, the Road Administration extended the contract with the current operator until a new service provider is found, but for no longer than two years.
Ratas highlighted that what matters the most is that passengers have the best possible air and ferry links by the next high season.
"We need to find the best solution for residents of Saaremaa, Abruka, Vilsandi, Muhu and Kesselaid, so that if people want, they can fly from Kuressaare to Tallinn," the prime minister said. "Twice a day from Monday through Friday from Kuressaare to Tallinn, and twice from Tallinn to Kuressaare, and also once a day on Saturdays and Sundays."
The Tallinn-Kuressaare-Tallinn air link is currently operated by Lithuanian carrier Transaviabaltika.
Editor: Aili Vahtla