airBaltic screws up ambition2009-05-12
The Financial Crisis and recession have plunged the global aviation into the worst crisis since 11 September 2001, but in the midst of misery, there are exceptions. One of them is airline airBaltic that despite a deep economic crisis on the domestic markets of the Baltic countries recorded a passenger growth of seven per cent in the first quarter after growth of the whole at 29 percent last year.
While the Latvian company launches new routes, increase frequencies on 20 existing routes and announces a strengthening of the main base Riga as a hub between Scandinavia, the Baltic region and several countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Scandinavia has long been a focus of airBaltic, with two new routes from Riga to Tromsø and Linköping from this spring the company now operates a total of ten destinations in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
"We continue to strengthen our network of routes in Scandinavia. We have now reached the critical mass that makes it possible to offer attractive and efficient transit options, and with the new summer traffic plan we have better connections and more flights for passengers travelling from Riga, "says CEO of airBaltic Bertolt Flick.
This week he hosted an international aviation conference in Riga, which was focused on airBaltic ambition to develop the airport into one of tomorrow's major hubs for air traffic in Northern Europe. An ambition that particular could give Danish businessmen the opportunity for more and better connections to a number of destinations in the former Soviet Union.
Unique geographical location
”The new routes to Scandinavia and Central Asia is a good picture of where we put our geographical focus when we look at the new route opportunities. Latvia has a unique geographical location as the easternmost country in Europe with strong historical and commercial ties with the countries further east," said Bertolt Flick.
From Denmark airBaltic flies three times daily from Copenhagen to Riga twice-daily Copenhagen-Vilnius and three times a week from Billund to Riga. The flight Copenhagen-Riga is just a half hour, and from here there are further links to over 50 destinations, particularly where the routes to Minsk and Kiev are interesting. Moreover exotic destinations such as Almaty, Tashkent, Baku, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Odessa, Simferopol and Chisinau - all cities that few other European airlines serve. From June airBaltic also adds a route to Dushanbe in Tajikistan.
airBaltic and Riga airport has since 2004 - when the Baltic countries joined the EU - has seen a significant growth. The number of passengers at Riga has almost quadrupled since 2004 to 3.7 million last year.
Growth has been significantly higher than in neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania, while the airports of Tallinn and Vilnius during the economic crisis experienced dramatic decline in the number of passengers continues upturn in Riga - albeit at a more moderate pace. This year is projected an overall growth of ten per cent. While airBaltic alone in the first quarter had a growth of 36 percent Riga airport.
Every second passenger in the Baltic flies from Riga today but had it not been for a strong increase in the number of transfer passengers - a tripling in 2008 - would also Riga have experienced a significant drop in ridership. And it explains why airBaltic now screws up the ambition to become a focal point.
”This years offers huge challenges. It is a collapse in the Baltic markets, and I see no light at the end of the tunnel yet. The crisis forced us to much more focus on transit passengers, and develop junction Riga,"said Bertolt Flick.
If it were up to him, the state-owned airport, therefore realize delay plans to expand and modernize facilities - a project that the economic crisis has created doubts.
"If we must strengthen Riga’s position as an important crossroads, we need a bigger terminal, new and efficient facilities, attractive shops and other of the necessities that modern travellers expect," said Bertolt Flick.
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