RIGA - Without the national airline airBaltic, Riga International Airport will fall back to the level of the Tallinn Airport, said Riga Airport CEO Arnis Luhse in an interview with LNT television’s morning show ‘900 sekundes’ on July 14, reports Nozare.lv. Furthermore, in this case Riga Airport would have very limited opportunities to achieve another substantial increase in passenger turnover. Other airlines would partly compensate for the fall in passenger turnover, but not much.
Riga Airport and airBaltic are inseparable, and the airport will do everything in its power for the airline to continue operations, stressed Luhse.
AirBaltic brings 2-3 million passengers to Riga Airport each year, or 66 percent of the airport’s total passenger turnover. Furthermore, it is airBaltic that ensures the flow of transit passengers through the airport. It is not very likely that foreign airlines will choose Riga as a transit hub for their flights, said Luhse.
There are many Estonians and Lithuanians among Riga Airport’s clients who would rather fly from their respective countries’ airports, however, Riga offers a broader network of destinations.
The airport’s biggest problem at the moment is inadequate capacity, noted Luhse. The development of the airport is four years behind schedule; the current terminal is meant to serve 3 million passengers a year, which is why there are large crowds of people and long lines during peak hours, as well as other problems.
These problems will be partly solved by three new gates, nevertheless, security checks will still take as long as they do now.
A new system will be introduced at the airport next year, offering significant discounts for those airlines which will move their arrival/departure times to off-peak hours. This way, the problem will be partly resolved without substantial extra investments.
Work on airport expansion projects continues. The final concept is to be approved on Aug. 2 this year; then, the project will be submitted to the Transport Ministry and the Cabinet of Ministers. Also, talks are under way with four airlines that could start flying to Riga from next year. Most of these are low-cost airlines.
Luhse said that the development plans of Tukums Airport do not concern him because all airlines will prefer flying to Riga.
Domestic flights within the territory of Latvia are rather pointless, added Luhse, because driving from Riga to Ventspils takes about as much time as flying, taking into account that one must arrive at the airport quite a long time before the departure.
The airport previously announced that it had earned 500,000 lats (714,200 euros) in profit in the first half of this year, compared with a loss of 15,000 lats in the first six months last year.