RIGA - Budget airline Ryanair announced on Tuesday it would launch daily flights to Riga from London, Frankfurt and Tampere beginning in October as part of its long-term plan to win a part of the lucrative East European air industry.
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary told reporters gathered at Riga International Airport that the discount airline chose the Latvian capital over Tallinn and Vilnius due to the government's willingness to cooperate.
What's more, if the three routes to Riga are successful, the company will schedule more to cities such as Brussels, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm and others.
Ticket prices for one-way travel to Riga will cost 4.99 euros from Tampere, 3.99 pounds sterling from London and 7.99 euros from Frankfurt plus airport taxes - though the price may change depending on time of flight and other factors.
The prices will also depend on whether the carrier handles at least 300,000 passengers at RIA, which is part of the government's new scheme to entice airlines to bring in more passengers to the Latvian capital.
O'Leary said he realized the airline would not earn a profit from the routes but for now was more interested in getting established for the long term in Eastern Europe.
Also, tickets will be sold only on the Internet by credit card and will remain in effect until spring, after which the fares will likely increase.
Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Ainars Slesers said Ryanair would not receive any special discounts at RIA but that the airline's presence would increase competition. He said he was happy that Latvia was ahead of Lithuania and Estonia in this industry and hoped that in next five years the Riga airport would serve 5 - 6 million passengers annually.
Slesers said the next discount airline to start flying to Riga would be Britain's EasyJet.
The government has significantly cut airport fees and passenger taxes at RIA in an effort to entice more airlines and boost passenger turnover.