VILINIUS - Vilnius International Airport's new CEO has officially started work and will now be faced with the challenge of turning around the airport's declining traffic.
Tomas Vaisvila, formerly the commercial director of the Baltic Logistics and Investment Center, took up his new position as chief executive officer of Vilnius International Airport 's the largest in the country 's on Feb. 24.
He comes on board as the airport's January traffic numbers reveal a 28 percent decline in passengers from this time one year ago. Part of the drop can be attributed to the January shutdown of Lithuania's national airline, flyLAL, but statistics reveal that this is not the only factor at play.
Latvia's national airline airBaltic's January passengers at Vilnius airport is also down 23.9 percent from a year earlier.
"Currently, we are watching the general situation in the aviation market and analyzing passengers' needs. We already know that we will launch an air connection between the Lithuanian resort of Palanga and the Latvian capital of Riga in the summer season," said Tadas Vizgirda, airBaltic's vice-president and head of its Lithuanian unit.
The Latvian carrier early this month temporarily suspended direct flights from Vilnius to London, Brussels and Berlin, citing a decline in passenger traffic. It had previously ended its direct service between Vilnius and Helsinki. The company has said that it expects to resume some direct flights in the spring.
Meanwhile, the airport will have only 18 daily flights this summer, with the amount of destinations available dropping by 16 percent.
The airport is currently trying to find other airlines to take up the former routes covered by flyLAL. FlyLAL grounded all regular flights from Jan. 17 as it was stripped of its license due to financial troubles.
Ukraine's carrier Donbassaero began offering direct flights between Vilnius and Kiev on Feb. 23, with four weekly flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Brussels Airlines, meanwhile, is launching flights between Vilnius and Brussels on March 30.
Russia's Aeroflot is also drawing up a schedule for flights to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. The Russian airline had plans to fly to Lithuania starting March 1, but has not yet found an aircraft to serve the route.
Lithuanian aviation officials remain hopeful that aircraft of the Dutch airline KLM will begin landing in Vilnius in about a month's time. They also expect that Georgian airlines will agree to open an air link between Vilnius and Tbilisi.
In addition to finding new airlines, the airport also plans to follow through with numerous infrastructure improvements starting this year and continuing until 2011.
The airport aims to invest some 115 million litas in the improvements. The key investments include the expansion and reconstruction of an apron ramp, improving the runway lighting system, improving the departure and arrival terminals and constructing a multi-level parking lot.
Vaisvila has also said that the airport needs to improve its efficiency. He said that he saw much room for improvement by revising costs.