The modern two-story terminal, with a total area of more than 5,000 square meters, will be built by the end of 1999 in place of an old Soviet-style building.
"This reconstruction will considerably improve conditions for both departing and arriving passengers," said the airport's vice president, Viesturs Veinbergs. "We are doing everything so that we don't lag behind other world airports in terms of passenger comfort."
The arrival and transit passenger area will take up the entire first floor of the new building with two luggage ramps, customs and immigration services.
Riga Airport's reconstruction concept has been prepared by the Dutch Schiphol Project Consul BV which foresees that passenger flow will increase to 1.4 million people per year by 2012. The new terminal should considerably speed up passenger flow.
The second floor will be connected with the current departure area and will have more space for duty-free stores, bars and cafes. While the European Union countries will stop duty-free trade this summer, Riga Airport is hoping to gain from this move.
"We are outside that territory and we can considerably increase our revenue from duty-free stores," Veinbergs said.
The government also helped to increase the airport's revenue by introducing a $12 tax that is paid by all departing passengers. The construction of the new terminal, which will cost 2.84 million lats ($4.8 million), will be covered by the airport tax.
Veinbergs warned that passengers might feel a little discomfort until the new building is built. Arriving passengers are passed through a temporary tent since the old terminal has already been demolished.
"We hope that passengers will accept these temporary changes with understanding, since all the work is aimed at improving client service and comfort at Riga Airport," he said.
After this reconstruction is completed, the airport will launch the remodeling of the passenger terminal which foresees the construction of a two-story building for passenger reception from big planes.