airBaltic claims monopoly abuse by RIX

  • 2010-07-08
  • From wire reports

RIGA - Riga International Airport has rejected claims by the national airline airBaltic that it is working with an unfair tariff policy, and believes that airBaltic is trying to apply pressure in order to obtain even more favorable conditions than it already has from the airport, reports The Transport Ministry has also indicated that the claims by the airline are mistaken.
AirBaltic has accused Riga airport of providing services to competitor Ryanair for a reduced fee, and has already turned to the Competition Council. The airline was also set to file a lawsuit, claiming 5.9 million lats (8.4 million euros) from the airport in compensation.

The airport judged the announcements by airBaltic as “emotional” and “unfounded,” suggesting that one of the airline’s aims could be to avoid paying for services already received. The airport’s statement noted that all clients were provided with services for equal fees, in accordance with the tariffs approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. The airport also called for airBaltic not to mislead the public and state institutions with false and unchecked facts before turning to the courts and other supervisory institutions.

According to the statement by Riga airport, its tariffs were the lowest among all European capital city airports, and that this policy had been successful in attracting four new airlines to the airport in 2010 - Belavia, WizzAir, TAROM and AeroSvit.
The Transport Ministry stressed that initial verbal information from Riga International Airport indicated that the media statement made by airBaltic contained inaccurate and misleading information; however, the ministry has requested detailed information from the airport’s management regarding the application of government regulations and other matters referred to in the airline’s statement.

AirBaltic believes Riga’s airport collected a reduced fee for its services this year from Ryanair, while it charged an increased fee from itself, according to airBaltic Corporate Communications Vice-President Janis Vanags. The airline says that in this way, Ryanair has not made payments in accordance with the tariffs confirmed by the Cabinet of Ministers.
On Nov. 1, 2009, Riga airport introduced a new tariff system, which cancelled the previous high-volume discounts offered to airlines.

AirBaltic indicated that the airport had doubled its ground services charges, while at the same time offering reduced rates to other airlines. The airline’s president, Bertolt Flick, explained that the airport had exploited its monopoly position, reducing its fees for Ryanair, while demanding higher payments from airBaltic.

The Latvian airline was said to have been involved in talks with both the Transport Ministry and the airport’s management; however, these having proved fruitless, airBaltic decided to turn to the courts and the Competition Council.
In early June, Minister of Economy Artis Kampars (New Era) had noted that airBaltic is of strategic importance to the development of aviation and tourism in Latvia. “Foreign tourists come to Latvia from more than 100 destinations served by airBaltic, and the money they spend on accommodation, restaurants, taxis and conference services is an investment in the national economy of Latvia,” said Kampars.