TALLINN - With the Estonian state owning an air carrier, it is elementary that it should operate routes from Estonia to various destinations, Henrik Hololei, director-general of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Transport and Mobility, said, according to the online news portal of public broadcaster ERR.
"How the aviation company belonging to the Estonian state is to continue its operation is a question to its owner. With the Estonian state owning an air carrier, it is elementary that it should operate routes from Estonia to various destinations. At present, it does not do that. It currently carries out subcontracts, and does so successfully, which helps keep the company afloat. Whether or not this will also be the future of the air carrier owned by the state is a question for its owners," Hololei said on ETV's morning program "Terevisioon".
Hololei noted that the framework for temporary state aid in aviation will last until the end of the year, after which a pre-pandemic normal situation will return.
"Granting state aid in aviation is permitted on market conditions once per 10 years. During the pandemic, the opportunities have been different compared with a normal situation. Thus, various air carriers have received injections of state aid during the pandemic which they would not ordinarily receive. The extraordinary situation will last until the end of this year and then we will return to normality. The current cash injections also must be lawful, however, and we are checking them," he said.
The state aid granted during the pandemic has greatly helped many air carriers, which Hololei deems reasonable as the pandemic has been particularly difficult for the tourism and transport sector.
"On the other hand, there are aviation companies that have not received even one cent of aid and who are performing the most flights today. Ryanair is the best example. They currently have 87 percent of the flights they had before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the air carriers that have received large sums of aid, have around 50 percent," he said.
Hololei explained that if a company is flexible and able to quickly adapt to various market conditions, it can also survive situations that are as difficult as the coronavirus pandemic.
"We need that the common aviation area be preserved in Europe. It has rendered aviation accessible and affordable. For that, we need air carriers. However, competition is what takes us forward, and not some administrative techniques. And this competition must be preserved in all situations," he added.
States closing their borders was one of the biggest mistake during the coronavirus pandemic, as a result of which, people lost their desire to travel.
"One did not know where they would end up or what the requirements were. Whether or not self-isolation would be needed or what documents are required. All of this was a major setback. And it took a year and a half to recover from it," Hololei said.
The COVID-19 certificate introduced from July 1 has helped restore European aviation to a significant degree, according to Hololei.
"Such steps should have been taken much, much earlier. However, this pandemic was unexpected for all of us and at first we didn't know how to react. The most important lesson to be learned from this is that a situation where everything is closed must be prevented. A situation where people are in the dark and any and all connectivity has been terminated. This should never happen again," he said.