International airport opens new terminal

  • 2001-08-02
  • Ilze Arklina
RIGA - A new passenger terminal at Riga International Airport opened July 27, completing the second stage of the airport's comprehensive reconstruction. The new terminal, which includes five passenger bridges to lead passengers directly from the terminal to their aircraft, will be put into operation on Aug. 1.

"The new terminal's capacity is more than 1.3 million passengers per year, and I hope that Riga airport will reach this number within the next 10 years," airport president Dzintars Pomers told journalists. In 2001, the airport plans to service about 600,000 passengers.

Riga International Airport is the largest in the Baltic region with 296,872 passengers serviced in the first six months of 2001 (see chart 1). Eleven carriers make regular flights to Riga (see chart 2), and more than 4.2 million passengers have used the airport since 1992. Riga is connected with direct flights to 16 European cities, but Pomers has plans to increase this number to 20 in the next five years.

Three thousand square meters of a reconstructed airport building were opened, a two-story extension covering 5,100 square meters was knocked up from scratch, existing buildings and external communications were reconstructed, and taxiing lanes and a central apron were constructed on 13 hectares of land.

Two firms were contracted for the work - the buildings were constructed by the local company PBLC, while the apron and lanes were built by another local company, ACB. The construction project involved an additional 35 subcontractors.

For the first time in Latvia a new construction material, densiphalt, was used to build aircraft stands. In summer temperatures, densiphalt does not deform under an aircraft's weight and is as durable as concrete, said Valdis Lejnieks, the president of ACB.

The total cost of the second stage of the airport's reconstruction amounted to 14.3 million lats ($22.7 million). In May 2000, the airport got a 10 million euro ($8.69 million) loan from the European Investment Bank, while another $10 million was borrowed from Latvia's Parex bank in March 2001. Repayment of these loans will be made from the airport's own income, mainly from airport taxes paid by passengers.

"I'm very proud on behalf of Latvia, as the airport is now living up to the standards of the rest of Europe," said Jens Helmo Larsen, the president of Latvia's national carrier AirBaltic.

The first stage of the reconstruction was completed in December 1999 and involved the construction of a new arrivals terminal. The total cost of this project was 5 million lats.

Pomers said that in the last 10 years Riga's airport has seen investments of 34 million lats, obtained from operational profits and loans.

The airport's president also said that the airport plans to extend its runway in the next two years by 650 meters from the current 2.5 kilometers.

He emphasized that the airport's runway fits all necessary standards even today, with basically any type of plane being able to land here. Extending the runway is a matter of safety for easing the landing of large transit planes.

The airport's management also intends to invest in the construction of a cargo and small aviation terminal and reconstruct the northern and eastern facades of the passenger terminal.

Since 1992 Riga International Airport has handled more than 4.2 million passengers and posted a turnover of 3.9 million lats in the first six months of this year, 5 percent up year-on-year.

The airport currently employs 460 people and is one of the largest taxpayers in the country, paying 897,566 lats to the state budget in 2000.