TALLINN - Estonian and Finnish business travelers got a boost this week when Soder Airlines, a regional Finland-based air carrier, launched direct flights between Finland's Tampere and the Estonian capital on March 15.
Company officials said that they had decided to launch the new route on the basis of studies showing that many of their passengers often flew to Tallinn.
"We carried out a marketing survey in Tampere and Oulu and found out there were many companies who either have branches or business partners in Tallinn. Business travelers make a significant part of our target group," said Juha Koskimaki, sales director of Soder Airlines.
The survey revealed that nearly 1,000 companies based in or around Tampere have business connections - mostly oursourcing contracts - with Estonian firms.
Koskimaki also said that Soder Airlines wants to attract Estonian tourists traveling to northern Finland and other tourists to Tallinn who might be interested in visiting more exotic regions in Finland.
The company's home airfield is in Tampere, a city of 200,000 residents some 170 kilometers northwest of Helsinki. Tampere has well-developed metal and electronic industries and is located not far from the town of Nokia.
Although RyanAir, a leading European discount airline company, offers daily flights from Tampere to London and Frankfurt, Koskimaki said he did not consider the Irish carrier a competitor.
"We have a completely different schedule than RyanAir. Our passengers would have to spend a night in Tampere to catch RyanAir flights," Koskimaki said.
Apart from Tallinn, Soder Airlines offers direct flights from Tampere to Oulu, Kittila and Ivalo - all towns in the north of Finland - and once a week from Turu to Kittila.
The company currently has one 50-seat Saab 2000, a turboprop aircraft specially designed for regional airlines, but plans to lease another plane so that it can eventually launch its Tampere-Riga and Tampere-Vilnius routes.
"We are expecting to lease our second plane in May, and we will start direct flights from Tampere to Riga and from Tampere to Vilnius as soon as we get the plane," said Koskimaki.
Soder Airlines' return ticket for adults on the company's primary route Tallinn-Tampere costs 165 euros in economy class and 235 in business class.
Apart from Soder Airlines, two new carriers - Flying Finn and Air Finland - entered the Finnish market last year. Low-cost Flying Finn flies to domestic destinations in the northern part of the country and to London's Stansted Airport.
Air Finland, an airline focused on leisure travelers, flies from Helsinki to Nice, Tenerife, Barcelona, Malaga and other destinations popular among Finns looking to spend some time in a warm climate. Last year the company carried about 70,000 passengers and is now pondering purchase of its third Boeing 757-200 plane.
Soder Airlines expects to serve about 60,000 passengers this year. "If we have that many passengers we will make a little profit," said Koskimaki.
According to Tallinn Airport, about 158,000 passengers flew from Tallinn to Helsinki last year.