TALLINN - Representatives of Europe's biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair, this week met with officials from the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs, raising the prospect of a new budget air route to Tallinn. Tallinn is already serviced by Easyjet, which substantially increased tourist traffic when it launched routes to the U.K. and Germany.
Ryanair, one of the largest low-cost airlines and Easyjet's main competitor, would open the city to an even larger tourist market 's a possibility that excites some locals but worries others.
The Irish-based airline already flies into Riga, Latvia, and Kaunas, Lithuania. Estonia remains the only European Union member country to which Ryanair does not fly.
But the discount airline hasn't been well accepted by all its host cities. Riga residents, especially, complain that Ryanair has helped tarnish the city's image, as thousands of British and Irish stags use the cheap tickets to fly in for a weekend of partying and strip-club hopping in the capital's Old Town.
On Aug. 8, Ministry of Economic Affairs adviser Oleg Harlamov traveled to Ryanair's headquarters in Dublin, accompanied by Tonis Lepp, the deputy head of the ministry's maritime and aviation department, to discuss the deal.
The local media reported that Ryanair has pressured the ministry to provide special concessions, including a bulk contract with Tallinn International Airport, as well as lower airport taxes.
Such concessions would be based on a contract to bring 500,000 extra tourists to Tallinn each year.
A spokesman for Ryanair talked down the meetings, saying the airline was in constant negotiation with many airports across Europe.
"We are always interested in talking to airports, and any city in that region is interesting to us as it is a growing destination," the spokesman told The Baltic Times.
Meanwhile, Estonia's national carrier, Estonian Air, said it was not worried about competition, but wanted each airline to pay equal airport taxes.
"It is clear that according to existing rules and regulations, all the airlines must have equal opportunities and conditions at Tallinn Airport," Estonian Air's commercial vice president Marte Relve said.
"No exceptions to any one carrier can be made. Free competition on equal terms is something that Estonian Air is ready to encourage, and if rules are the same we are not scared of any competitor."