VILNIUS - Afraid of being left out of the booming airline market in the Baltics, Transport Minister Zigmantas Balcytis has invited eight leading European budget carriers to the negotiating table.
The minister said he sent invitations to Ireland's Ryanair, Britain's easyJet and BMI baby, Germany's Air Berlin, Virgin Express and German Wings, as well as Belgium-registered Hapag Lloyd Express and Dutch FLY be.
In particular, the ministry urged no-frill carriers to assess the advantages of Kaunas Airport, which operates a 3.25-kilometer long runway adapted for aircraft of any type.
So far, most budget carriers, which entered the Baltic market last fall, have omitted Lithuania from their expansion schedules. Ryanair has shown interest in the market but walked away after domestic authorities turned down numerous conditions the Irish-based carrier had set.
In his invitation letter, Balcytis highlighted the nation's impressive economic growth, explaining that EU membership, coupled with the population's income rise, boosted the market's potential considerably.
"Passenger flow handled by air carriers surged by almost 40 percent last year," he wrote. "We hope the growth of this market will far exceed the European average in the next several years to come. That is why I urge you to consider Lithuania's inclusion in the future list of prospective new routes.
Lithuania's airports serviced 1.1 million passengers in 2004, a rise of 39.3 percent year-on-year. The number of flights soared by 21.3 percent to 33,760.