Traveler numbers in Tallinn Airport in October were down to a tenth of what they were in 2019 with the number of flights from Estonia also down drastically, having reached a third of pre-crisis levels. In addition, air traffic services are set to lay off a quarter of their employees until year’s end.
Recent increases in coronavirus (COVID-19) rates in Europe have taken their toll on tourism, with Tallinn Airport passed through by just 35,000 travelers in October.
Tallinn Airport’s commercial director Eero Pargmae said: “Compared to last year, the drop is still great, it is only 11% of last year’s capacity. The lowest point was actually in March-April, when flights were very scarce. What is positive about the situation today is that the government has allowed some flights. We are operating to 12 destinations.”
The slump in flight numbers does not only affect airports, however. Overflight fees were a profitable section for the state, as Estonian airspace was passed through by flights traveling to destinations all over the world.
Last year, state-owned Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS’ turnover reached EUR 28 million with a total profit of EUR 3.2 million. A severe drop is expected in all economic indicators for 2020.
Ivar Vark, chairman of the board at Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS, said: “In March, air traffic dropped by about 83% from what it was last year. Currently, it is down by about 63%. This year, fees decreased by 55%, meaning our turnover decreased by 55%. This means that we are carrying a loss of around EUR 7 million this year.”
As turnover has dropped significantly and salaries account for 60% of expenses at Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS, the institution can only pay salaries and nothing more. The overflight center, having formerly employed a few dozen people, currently has three people working.
Vark noted: “We started the year with some 230 people and would finish the year with 170. This means that we have had to lay off about a fifth of our people.”
The center must work at a reduced regime for five years. At the same time, an experienced air traffic controller is paid around EUR 4,000 a month.
Vark explained: “We do not have such salaries, all salaries have decreased. We reduced wages by 30% in the summer. Now we have restored those, because it is not a long-term measure to motivate people to work at the same capacity with lessened wages.” (ERR/Business World Magazine)