RIGA - The state-owned Riga International Airport will turn to the Riga Regional Court, claiming that a debt of more than 2.5 million lats (3.5 million euros) be levied against the national airline airBaltic, reports Nozare.lv. The airport will ask the court to arrest airBaltic payments to third parties, as well as the airline’s funds in credit institutions and other financial institutions, to secure its claim.
According to the airport, airBaltic ran up the debt of more than 2.5 million lats by not paying for various airport services since end-2009. The airport emphasizes that the lawsuit is an unpleasant and extreme step, but is in the interest of the company and its shareholder - the state of Latvia.
AirBaltic believes that it is discriminated against by the airport, counters airline President Bertolt Flick. He says that he found out about the airport’s claims against airBaltic only from the media. No information has been received from the courts that a case has been launched against the airline.
Flick mentions that the airport’s tariff rates changed on Nov. 1 last year, however, low-cost airline Ryanair continues to pay the airport as much as it used to pay before Nov. 1. AirBaltic has information that Ryanair pays the Riga airport 4.5 euros per passenger, which consists of landing fee, ground handling costs and airport tax.
“We, on the other hand, saw the airport ground handling tariff increased by 60 percent from Jan. 1. Furthermore, in April the airport introduced an infrastructure fee for ground handling, which raised the costs even more. Therefore, airBaltic’s total cost of landing fee, ground handling service and airport tax totaled nearly 10 euros per passenger,” said Flick. “It is unacceptable that Riga International Airport has increased its tariffs for airBaltic several times since last November in order to cover losses caused by the airport’s contract with Ryanair. It is absurd that a company, which partly belongs to the state of Latvia, has to pay twice as much as some Irish company. We have had countless talks with the Transport Ministry and the airport’s executives about the problem, but we have still not found a solution.”
Flick reiterated that airBaltic has turned to the Competition Council over the airport’s discriminatory policy, and has also prepared a lawsuit. The amount of the possible airBaltic claim against the airport is 7 million lats.
According to Flick, the airport does not even deny that airBaltic has to pay two times more per passenger than the Irish airline. At the same time, airBaltic transports four times as many passengers to and from Riga than does Ryanair.
“It is not a goal for airBaltic to make Ryanair pay more. AirBaltic is prepared to sign a contract with Riga Airport any time if the contract will give airBaltic the same privileged conditions as has Ryanair,” stressed Flick. “At the moment, airBaltic, together with the Transport Ministry, is looking for a solution so that the Latvian airline not be discriminated against. We are surprised that Riga International Airport is publicly pressuring airBaltic, not looking for a constructive solution.”