Competition council opens case on Riga Airport incentives

  • 2004-12-09
  • From wire reports
RIGA - The Competition Council has opened a case to determine whether Riga International Airport abused its monopoly position by implementing changes that provide discounts for airline companies based on the number of passengers carried.
According to Council Chairman Peteris Vilks, the airport might have violated the Treaty Establishing European Communities, which prohibits monopolistic companies from abusing their position.

If experts find that Riga International Airport indeed violated the treaty by applying such discounts, which the Transport Ministry was instrumental in devising, the council could fine the airport and repeal its decision.

Arnis Muiznieks, aviation department director at the Transport Ministry, told the Baltic News Service that the new pricing policy was only adopted after it was decided that the policy did not violate the competition law.

He said that after Latvia's accession to the European Union in May, any air carrier could fly to any airport, and the new price policy would provide equal opportunity to all parties.

The price policy was implemented on Nov. 1 and has lured low-cost air companies such as Ryanair and easyJety to the Latvian capital, which is anticipating a boom in tourist numbers. Both discount carriers have already launched flights to and from Riga.

However, several large companies flying to Riga International Airport have complained about the policy and brought these gripes to the Competition Council. Such carriers include Czech CSA, Lufthansa, airBaltic, KLM, LOT, Finnair and British Airways.

None of these companies objects to the application of discounts. Rather, they would like the price reductions to be equal for all carriers, since they feel that, if left as it is, the present price policy will create unfair competition.

Riga International Airport, which is a state-owned company, served 955,247 passengers during the first 10 months of 2004, up 45.2 percent year-on-year and 34.2 percent more than the whole of 2003.