TALLINN - Rumors about the fate of Estonia's airports continue to circulate as the country's Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed that its representatives would meet on Nov. 7 with representatives from low-cost Irish airline Ryanair.
Ryanair, which has been considering launching flights from Tallinn to Stockholm, Frankfurt and London, has asked the state to consider the possibility of reducing the airport tax in Tallinn Airport by half.
Tallinn Airport charges 15 euros per traveler in taxes in addition to landing and parking fees on planes. For low cost airlines such as Ryanair such fees are too high.
Another low-cost airline, Easy Jet, has indicated its interest in offering flights to the Estonian capital, but it has also been put off by the high airport taxes.
Signe Ratso, chancellor of the ministry, which regulates the transport sector, will represent the government at the Nov. 7 meeting.
There is also speculation that Ryanair is interested in offering flights to Parnu, Estonia's premier resort town located halfway between Tallinn and Riga. Although rumors about flights to Parnu have been circulating for months now, a Ryanair representative said that in most cases the initiative to start a new route comes from the airport itself.
The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs, however, said that it did not expect Ryanair to operate flights to Parnu Airport in the next 6 - 7 years.
Although there have been rumors that the government was considering plans to offer Parnu to become a regional hub for Ryanair, the ministry denied such plans existed.
"We have not discussed selling the airport to foreign investors," said Pille Roosvee, chairman of the supervisory board of Parnu Airport, stressing that the state plan was to allow the regional airport to continue as a hub for domestic flights.
Roosvee said that although Parnu Airport was losing money, its primary function was not to make a profit but to ensure traffic control and infrastructure for local operations.
However, the ministry did not rule out that after several years it might approach Ryanair with an offer to invest in Parnu Airport.
"One opportunity is for Parnu to become a hub for transit trade from Europe to Russia," said Roosvee, adding that the necessary investments could be made with the help of the EU Cohesion Fund by 2007.
A source told the Eesti Paevaleht daily that some investors have approached the ministry with a plan to invest in Parnu Airport.
According to Roosvee, before Ryanair would consider flying to Parnu the airport needs an investment of approximately 10 million kroons (640,000 euros) to cover modern air traffic control equipment, new methods of transport from the airport to Tallinn and Riga and cheap airport fees.