VILNIUS - Swedish airline Skyways and the Vilnius International Airport (VIA) have signed a cooperation agreement offering direct services between Vilnius and Stockholm and Vilnius and Copenhagen. The new flights will start on June 2.
The agreement signals a reneging on the previous promise by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to have flights running from Vilnius to more destinations by May 18.
It is, however, welcome news given the dearth of destinations from VIA.
"Airlines keep close watch on changes in the global aviation market environment. The situation changes daily and, unfortunately, not to the better side. Detailed calculations are to be done and the risk is to be evaluated before starting a new route," Executive Director of Skyways Peter Browall said, commenting on the delays in commencement.
"We have plans and I believe these two routes are just a start of our nice cooperation," he said.
The VIA director said this was a result of dropping the prices on tariffs at the airport, which was previously the most expensive in the region.
"We keep working to achieve new direct routes. We have introduced changes to airport services pricing, we also start active marketing actions," VIA director Tomas Vaisvila said.
"Due to the economic recession airlines are facing a significant decrease in demand for flights. Therefore, it is very important not only to start operations to new directions but also to maintain the existing routes," he added.
Vaisvila emphasized that maintaining routes to current destinations requires the efforts of all stakeholders 's including state structures, tourism and the hotel business.
AirBaltic Lithuanian chief Tadas Vizgirda said his company isn't worried about competition from Skyways.
"Absolutely not 's if there is so much potential in it can they sustain a cabin factor that makes the flights profitable? This is for Skyways to see. We terminated the Stockholm route and we used the same aircraft, so let's see how it goes for them," he told TBT.
Vizgirda conceded, however, that flights through Riga, which is the only option for many destinations, are inconvenient 's a complaint of many Vilnius residents.
"Of course it's an inconvenience 's people like direct flights. The Baltics have been spoilt, but now with the slowdown we have had to consolidate our routes through one hub 's Riga," he said.
AirBaltic will start operating a route from Kaunas to Riga on June 4 to reduce transit time for people not living near the Vilnius or Palanga airports.
Currently no special check-in procedures will be put into place for the Kaunas route.
"We are quite an innovative airline, but the first part is launching the flights. After that we try to reduce the hassle of traveling. Sometimes it isn't pleasant and many people see this as a job. The less time people spend in transit, the more work they get done," Vizgirda said.