Lithuanian Airports: During Negotiations with Airlines, Arguments Based on Numbers are Most Important

Although over the course of this year ten new routes will become available from the three airports in the country, Lithuanian Airports intend to continue expanding their routes map. However, they plan to do this after conducting a survey of the country’s businessmen and taking their actual needs into consideration. Thoughts on essential flight destinations were shared by representatives of various public bodies responsible for the promotion of tourism and export and the attraction of investments to our country during a discussion organised by Lithuanian Airports.

Envy for Tallinn is Inappropriate

Representatives of Lithuanian Airports who gathered to listen to the requests of businessmen and tourism sector representatives assured that the analysis of the need for new destinations and the presentation of new destination to airlines is constantly in progress. Still, such work requires much time and effort as competition for carriers’ attention is taking place on a particularly large market and new destinations are planned 8-12 months before the flights start; therefore, the results are seen after some time has passed.

“When carriers consider new destinations, the market size, competition with other carriers for the same destinations, the average ticket price, and the income level of people are especially important to them. The airlines’ activity is a business with low profit margins and high risk. Just the price of a landing slot (a time period in an airport for an aeroplane to land and depart) in a major airport may be very high. For example, a record sum of 75 million pounds was paid last spring for a slot in London Heathrow Airport,” said Jūratė Baltrušaitytė, the Chief Commercial Officer of Lithuanian Airports.

When the participants of the discussion mentioned Tallinn, from which British Airways, a major airline in the United Kingdom, will transport passengers to London Heathrow Airport, J. Baltrušaitytė outlined the main market differences of Lithuanian Airports and Tallinn Airport. Seven flights per day depart from Lithuania for London, while in Tallinn, flights take place five times per week, including the new flights. So, the company chooses markets where competition is less severe and the risk of new flights is lower.

This year, Vilnius Airport has already announced seven new destinations: to Grenoble, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Munich, Gothenburg, Saint Petersburg, Cologne and Nuremberg; it will be possible to fly to Naples from Kaunas Airport, and to Glasgow and Saint Petersburg from Palanga.

“This year, our growth indicators will be somewhat slower because of the runway reconstruction in Vilnius Airport; however, 2018 should be particularly good as we will grow rapidly,” said J. Baltrušaitytė, optimistically assessing the future of Lithuanian Airports.

Klaipėda Prioritises Flights to Germany and Sweden

According to the Chief Commercial Officer of Lithuanian Airports, in 2016 most passengers from the airports in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga travelled to Great Britain (20.3 per cent), Germany (9.2 per cent), and Norway (7.5 per cent).

However, it seems that the current number of flights to the aforementioned countries is insufficient for some businessmen. According to Viktorija Andriulienė, the Head of the Investments and Economy Department of Klaipėda City Municipality, in this centre of Western Lithuania tourists from Germany comprise 48 per cent of the overall tourist traffic, which amounts to half a million over a year.

“Now German tourists travel by ferries, buses, and cars. Another new destination requested by businessmen was Sweden. The specific city is less important, what is important is the smooth functioning of transport,” said V. Andriulienė.

However, to justify the need for specific destinations, Lithuanian Airports decided to conduct a survey of Lithuanian businessmen and representatives of the tourism sector to obtain exact numbers. “During negotiations with an airline regarding a particular destination, it is necessary to present duly substantiated market needs, historical and anticipated passenger traffic, to describe traveller segments and the required flight schedule,” explained J. Baltrušaitytė.

Dreams about Major Airports

The necessity of flights to such cities in Germany as Hamburg, Munich, Dortmund or Stuttgart was also emphasised by Tadas Jagminas, the director of the Projects Management Department of “Invest Lithuania”. However, he reminded that foreign investors also need direct flights to the main transit airports in other countries, such as Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and Heathrow and Gatwick in London.

Mantas Zamžickas, the head of the Business Development Team of “Enterprise Lithuania”, an agency responsible for promoting entrepreneurship and export in Lithuania, noted that when new flights are considered, it is very important to think about their contribution to the development of export of our country. “That is, it is important to analyse which new flights from Lithuania would strengthen our export positions,” clarified M. Zamžickas.