TALLINN - Estonia's national airline, Estonian Air, released its 2006 passenger and flight data last week, demonstrating a lackluster performance that has failed to keep the carrier competitive in the Baltics' dynamic airline industry. Estonian Air handled 689,800 passengers last year, up 7.3 percent year-on-year.
This is a stark comparison to AirBaltic, which saw its annual passenger numbers grow some 30 percent to 1 million passengers last year.
To boot, the company overtook flyLAL, Lithuania's leading airline, and handled the most passengers at Vilnius International Airport, or 32.5 percent. FlyLAL saw its market share plummet from 43.3 percent in 2005 to 28.7 percent last year.
Overall passenger numbers were up at all three airports. In Riga, passenger turnover grew 33 percent to 2.5 million, and has solidified its position as a growing regional hub.
In Tallinn, the city's airport handled 10 percent more year-on-year, or 1.5 million passengers.
Finally, Vilnius International Airport saw its turnover jump 13 percent to 1.45 million passengers.
In Lithuania, officials are hoping that the construction of a new 28 million euro terminal will help double the number of flights the airport can handle.
FlyLAL, which had a 28.7 percent share at the Vilnius airport last year, serviced 416,000 passengers in 2006, precipitously down from the 554,000 it handled in 2005.
But at Estonian Air, the problem has been planes. The company was plagued by a string of delayed and cancelled flights in the spring and summer last year. Eighty-seven flights were cancelled in 2006 compared with 49 the year before, board member Andrus Aljas told the Aripaev daily.
The ratio of timely departures, or departures executed no later than 15 minutes after the scheduled time, were down from 87.4 percent in 2005 to 84.5 percent.
The company celebrated a bit of good news last week when it received a newer Boeing 737-300, the second in recent weeks and part of the company's plan to renew its fleet. Currently Estonian Air has five aircraft.
The company is owned by the state, Scandinavia's SAS Group and Cresco, an investment bank.