Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) has proposed that the Road Administration (Maanteeamet) limit aircraft age in public procurement rounds related to the subsidized Tallinn to Saaremaa air route, Baltic News Service reports. Aas echoes calls from the municipality on Estonia's largest island.
Procurement rounds concern a four-year term from April 2020 to May 2024.
"The requirement on the aircraft's age arose from both the Saaremaa municipality's desire, as well as the local community, in order to make a step forward towards a higher quality air service," Aas said to BNS.
"Newer aircraft enables us to better stick to schedules, as well as being more weatherproof and more convenient for passengers. As we have seen with trains and ships, higher quality service also increases passenger volumes," he added.
The Road Administration announced the new public procurement round in mid-September, a contract worth an estimated €16.8 million. The final date for submissions is Nov. 14. As yet the terms and conditions of the new tender do not include an age ceiling.
Saaremaa municipality mayor Madis Kallas requested a maximum of 20 years for aircraft age to Aas, noting local calls for such a move. "Several Saaremaa business operators have expressed their displeasure at forgoing the age criterion," Kallas said.
"Furthermore, the Saaremaa municipality government, as the representative of the local community, finds that a change like this (I.e not having a maximum age-ed.) in the terms of the procurement does not allow us to achieve quality air service between Saaremaa and Tallinn," he added.
Kallas also noted that aircraft age is directly connected with dependability in operating a scheduled regular service.
"As the municipality government has learned, the maintenance and repair costs for aircraft older than 20 years are higher since the requirements for aircraft of that age are stricter, which in its turn means a higher price per departure," Kallas said, adding that a quality leap cannot be achieved with planes older than 20 years.
The municipality also stated it was willing to trade off timescale for establishing a new tender against quality, meaning some delays in obtaining a tender were worth it.
Saaremaa is Estonia's largest island, connected by a ferry service, and there are also proposals to build a bridge there. The airport is at Kuressaare, the island's capital.
Editor: Andrew Whyte