22nd of January, 2014
Lithuanian airports: nearly 3.5 million passengers handled last year, business partnership planned for the new year

Over 2013 the airports of Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga jointly welcomed 3.48 million passengers and handled 43,078 flights. Compared to 2012, passenger traffic grew by 5.5% last year; flight intensity increased by 3.4%. A passenger heading from Lithuania at this time of the year, i.e. during the aviation winter season, is free to choose from 20 airlines offering regular flights on 37 routes connecting 47 airports across Europe and beyond its borders.

“Last year is a proof of a stable airport growth – four new airlines launched their activities in Vilnius, while the airlines already in operation added new routes to their flight map. We had a record-breaking summer in Kaunas and an even higher rise in passenger flows after the start of the winter season. The indicators of Vilnius Airport and Kaunas Airport made it into the rating of the fastest-growing small airports in Europe. Meanwhile, even with its schedule changes, Palanga Airport maintained its passenger growth and reached a record-breaking 12% increase in passenger traffic in August 2013, compared to 2012, not to mention the aircraft maintenance, repair and operations unit for East and Central Europe set up by Ryanair in Kaunas in the beginning of the previous year, which is considered an example of sustainable airline investments in our region,” VIA Managing Director Gediminas Almantas said.

The map of flights from Lithuania goes on expanding

In 2013 new airlines expanded the route map of Lithuanian airports – Turkey’s Turkish Airline (Vilnius – Istanbul), Russia’s Polet Airlines (Vilnius – Saint Petersburg), Belarusian BelAvia (Vilnius – Minsk) and the national air carrier Air Lituanica in Vilnius.  

Meanwhile, the airlines which have already operated flights from the airports of Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga added new routes to their regular flights: two Ukrainian airlines, UTair-Ukraine Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines, launched flights on the Vilnius-Kiev route; the airline SAS introduced more flights from Vilnius to Copenhagen and resumed flights to Stockholm. Wizz Air began flights from Vilnius to Ålesund, Trondheim and Tel Aviv; Ryanair launched flights from Vilnius to Düsseldorf, Chania and Oslo and new flights from Kaunas to Cagliari, Trapani as well as resumed flights to Oslo Rygge Airport and London Luton Airport. Air Lituanica operated additional flights from Palanga on London and Dublin routes during the holiday season.

The flight map of the airports of Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga will go on expanding during the summer season of 2014. Ryanair will launch direct flights from Kaunas to Comiso (Sicily) and Nock in the north of Ireland. Wizz Air will begin flights from Vilnius to Kutaisi (Georgia) and the island of Corfu in Greece; Ukrainian International Airlines will increase the intensity of flights to Kiev and Turkish Airlines – to Istanbul. The flight map of Palanga Airport will be supplemented by the Moscow route.

Growth evaluated on the European level

The indicators of Lithuanian airports were evaluated by Airports Council International (ACI Europe). In 2013 Vilnius Airport and Kaunas Airport were rated in ACI EUROPE’s monthly Airport Traffic Reports.

VIA made it into the October report and was ranked 4th among the fastest-growing airports (by passenger traffic) in the group of airports welcoming up to 5 million passengers per year: Paris Vatry Airport (39.1% growth), Skopje Airport (37.6% growth), Chita Airport (34.3% growth), Vilnius Airport (29.4% growth), and Volgograd Airport (29.2% growth).

Meanwhile, in the November rating Kaunas Airport took the 3rd position in the same group: Paris Vatry Airport (117.4% growth), Tampere Airport (46.9% growth), Kaunas Airport (45.2% growth), Chambery Airport (28% growth), and Ciampino Airport (27.9% growth).

Sustainable business partnership and active involvement lacking

“2014 is the year full of challenges to all three airports,” the head of VIA concluded. “New routes require investments in their presentation and promotion. Airlines are also hoping that the parties benefiting from additional passenger flows – accommodation and catering industry, tourism sector, domestic transport, local municipalities – would bear a part of costs relating to the promotion of new routes as well as the risk of failure. Unfortunately, in contrast to the neighbouring countries, such cases are an exception in Lithuania, and, despite the considerable efforts made by the airports, those willing to contribute are lacking. In principle, Lithuanian airports themselves lack financial resources that they could invest in promoting and motivating airlines into the introduction of new routes,” Mr. Almantas said. 

According to him, the math is simple here – if one arriving passenger spent LTL 394 in Lithuania on the average, one new route, for example, Vilnius–Madrid, operated 4 times a week by aircraft Airbus320 (150 seats) would under an optimistic scenario generate an additional weekly income well above LTL 200,000, which would directly flow into the accommodation, catering, entertainment, domestic tourism and transport sector. If this sector is not willing to invest in long-term development, why should someone else do it instead of them?” VIA Managing Director Gediminas Almantas said.