Lithuanian airports losing race for regional domination to Riga

DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Gediminas Almantas, CEO of Lietuvos Oro Uostai, the company managing Lithuania’s three airports, said that “one of the main benefits which the airports try to bring is to make the country more accessible, visible and desirable. It is a difficult task, because Lithuania does not have a huge variety of communications to choose from.“

According to Žygimantas Mauricas, chief economist at Nordea Bank, air transport contributes only 2.2 percent to Estonia‘s GDP, but that is because of competition from Finland. “It is very difficult for Tallinn Airport to compete with Helsinki Airport, therefore Estonia’s air transport is condemned to be overshadowed by Finland,” said Mr. Mauricas.

Lithuania has no real competitors in the region, except Latvia with its Riga Airport. Total air transport effect on Latvia’s economy is 3.3 percent, so Lithuania is clearly losing the race. Unsurprisingly, only direct tourism sector effect accounts for 3.1 percent GDP in Latvia, while in Lithuania, only 1.9 percent.

Lithuania has three international airports in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga. In all, they serviced 3.8 million passengers in 2014. Currently, 17 airlines fly to 59 destinations in 51 cities. There also are six charter airlines working in Lithuania.

Lietuvos Oro Uostai is planning to change pricing strategy from the start of the 2016 summer season. Charges in Vilnius Airport will be more than twice bigger than in Kaunas, which will encourage low-cost airlines to switch to Kaunas. However, Ryanair wants to keep some of its flights from Vilnius and Wizz Air is not even considering to organise flights from Kaunas.

Last year, Vilnius Airport serviced 2.9 million passengers, Kaunas Airport serviced 724,000 and Palanga Airport, 133,000.

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