Latvian state-owned carrier airBaltic has added five new destinations to its Tallinn routes this week, bringing its total to 15. The airline says it will still need state aid this year, however.
Changes in coronavirus rates and/or restrictions have helped boost the list, with exemptions granted for direct flights to Warsaw, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Riga, Helsinki and London in August last year, followed by a change in the ruling in September 2020 to allow direct flights to countries with up to double the average 14-day coronavirus rate per 100,000 inhabitants.
While London was briefly off the list following a ban on all direct flights between the U.K. and Estonia late last year, airBaltic now flies there, as well as to Amsterdam, Oslo and Stockholm.
With direct flights now making the short hop between Tallinn and Riga – the latter the substantially larger transport hub – a situation where arrivals in Riga destined for Tallinn were having to find alternate ways of crossing the border is at present no longer the case.
Budget airlines Ryanair and, this week, Easyjet are also flying to London, while Wizz Air is also operating a route between Tallinn and Oslo at the moment.
Ryanair also flies between Tallinn and Milan.
Despite airBaltic’s increasing activity, the airline will have to seek state support in Latvia in the coming months.
The Latvian government says it is aware of and sympathetic towards the request for support, particularly given the ongoing pandemic situation but also out of a desire that the country not be cut-off entirely (Latvia closed its borders to arrivals from within the EU/EEA earlier this month).
2020 saw an 86% fall on flight volumes, though airBaltic still employs over 1,000 staff – without whom reestablishing activities would not be possible in the event of a significant fall in coronavirus rates.
Estonia’s own state-owned airline Nordica, which operates on a leasing model and also runs domestic air routes for other carriers in other countries, received a EUR 30-million bailout package last year in the face of its own coronavirus woes. (ERR/Business World Magazine)