Flights halted between Estonia and Russia

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Jaclyn M. Sindrich
TALLINN – Flying the friendly skies, it seems, doesn't apply to the cloud-filled, chilly expanse between Russia and Estonia. Starting March 26, all flights between Tallinn and Moscow were suspended, after talks between the Estonian Aviation Board and the Russian aviation authority failed.

Estonia's Aviation Board director Toomas Peterson said the countries were unable to agree upon a summer timetable, and Russian aviation authorities opposed Estonian Air's intention to replace a Boeing with a Fokker aircraft.

The regular service to Russia was until now based on an agreement by which Estonia had issued a license to Estonian Air and to Russia's Aeroflot airlines for ELK Airlines, which has a contract with Aeroflot.

"We will have talks this week and come up with a solution," assured Peterson. "It is very important to continue these flights."

Head of the Russian Aviation Board foreign relations department, Sergei Seskutov, explained in a Baltic News Service report that the Fokker aircraft is not certified, and the board has told Estonian Air several times it did not approve of it.

"[Estonian Air] shouldn't try to dictate to Russia what aircraft to fly here," he said.

Estonian Air information manager Raymond Made dismissed the Russian claims, calling them incomprehensible and unsubstantiated. He said that in the past they had used such airplanes without protest.

"The type of aircraft is not an argument. It is a ridiculous excuse," he said. There were seven flights to Moscow previously, according to Tallinn Airport's marketing manager Katrin Poll, and now direct flights to 10 international cities remain.

Estonian Air also halted flights to Helsinki through the summer season because of overwhelming competition from the hydrofoils, said Made. Finnair, however, maintains its Helsinki-Tallinn connection.

Even with the two cities cut from Estonian Air's schedule, at least temporarily, Made feels Tallinn is still an accessible international destination, citing the airline's cooperation with several foreign carriers, such as SAS and Lufthansa.