VILNIUS - While the three new airlines that started operations in Vilnius this year have proceeded carefully in their attempts to restore the city's direct air connections with other European capitals, a group of Icelandic investors now plan to try their luck, with between six to eight destinations set to open all at once, reports news agency LETA.
Thorsteinn Gudnason, representing three legal entities and eight private individuals, says the investor group plans shortly to set up a new company in Vilnius - Lithuania Express - fashioned after Iceland Express, Iceland's low-fare airline that the original investors claim to have started in 2003 and sold in 2005, to Iceland's investment firm Fengur.
"Our plan is to start with three destinations, namely Amsterdam, Berlin, and Copenhagen," says Gudnason. "There is no one flying to Amsterdam and Berlin today, while on the Copenhagen route we have two competitors. Then again, the Danish capital is among the most popular destinations in Lithuania."
The would-be airline will start out with one Boeing 737-700, then add another one for new destinations. "Instead of the standard 148 seats, our planes will have 136 seats. This means we will have more leg-room, and this we plan to turn into our competitive advantage, by targeting business travelers who want value for their money," explains Gudnason. London and Kiev are among the destinations being studied.
The investor group also claims to already have key licenses in place. "One of the companies in our group from Denmark holds an air operator's certificate (AOC) that allows us to operate throughout the EU. The Lithuanian authorities will only have to verify it," says Gudnason.
"Gudnason received all the relevant information from us," says Tomas Vaisvila, CEO of Vilnius Airport. "As a new entrant, they expect certain discounts from us, but we can only offer a typical agreement in order not to discriminate existing players. In fact, there are a number of airlines that are actively investigating the feasibility of new destinations, and some of them have advanced further in their effort than have the Icelanders," says Vaisvila.