RIGA - Riga International Airport, the busiest terminal in the Baltics, will need some 200 million lats (285 million euros) in investments if it is to reach its long-term goal of handling 10 million passengers by 2013, the airport's president, Dzintars Pomers, said last week.
Pomers specified that investments would include a runway extension, a new passenger waiting hall, as well as an expansion of existing terminals. New, larger parking lots would also be necessary, he said.
"It's all very well, but we will run out of development funds if the airport keeps developing this fast in coming years," Pomers said, adding that airport personnel were working on ways of raising money for various projects. One financial solution could be government subsidies, which are now being allocated to the railway and highways.
"It is an option, if the state considers aviation an essential priority," Pomers said. "We can leave the existing price policy unchanged, but somebody has to finance it."
Pomers noted that, unlike railways and motor roads, the airport had not received any government funding until recently. The first financing was allocated in preparation for the upcoming NATO summit this fall.
The airport might tap into EU funds or borrow for the construction of airport buildings, Pomers said. Alternatively, passengers would pay for the expansion, he added, explaining that, in this case, the airport would have to cancel all discounts to airlines.
"For the time being, the airport has enough money to exist on the revenues we are receiving now," Pomers concluded.
Last year, Riga Airport served 1.8 million passengers, an increase of 77.1 percent from 2004. The airport is fully owned by the state.
Tallinn Airport officials are faced with the same dilemma: how to handle increasing passenger volumes. Officials have floated the idea of moving the entire airport to an airbase at Amari, 40 kilometers west of the city.
To be sure, any relocation would not take place for another 25 years, though the move would allow the airport to increase its traffic from 1.4 million to some 6 million passengers annually.
In Vilnius, the situation is analogous. Vilnius International Airport served some 150,000 passengers in June, an all-time monthly record. On June 12, the construction of a new passenger terminal began. The new, 14,000 square meter facility should be completed by Oct. 1, 2007. It will increase the airport's capacity to 3 million passengers per year.