Erik Sakkov, marketing manager of Tallinn Airport, told Äripäev that the problems with Estonian Air are most worrying because the airline is the biggest carrier in Tallinn.
In nine months, Estonian Air’s market share in Tallinn Airport was 40% and it carried 687,043 passengers. Sakkov admits that although the airport is constantly negotiating with about 20 airlines, it is very difficult to find new carriers interested in flying to Tallinn.
"This year Aeroflot arrived in Tallinn and next year Turkish Airlines will open a route to Istanbul. Now Estonian Air is cutting its route network, so there will be fewer destinations, fewer flights and fewer passengers. The network of Estonian Air was a precondition in attracting airlines to Tallinn because it offered code-sharing possibilities. This is going to hurt our negotiations with them now. Airlines have better things to do than to fly to Tallinn,” said Sakkov.
"The Estonian Air issue is about economic policy. Every passenger means revenue and profit to tens of other businesses and more taxes to the state. Think about the impact of fewer routes on hotels, catering enterprises and retailers,” said Sakkov.
Where are the investors?
- Sakkov says that Estonian Air may be in a poor state, but the worst outcome would be selling it to some European airline.
- "We all remember the days when all that Estonian Air did was to feed passengers to SAS,” said Sakkov, adding that SAS itself is struggling and may be on the verge of bankruptcy.
Also Latvia’s airBaltic is facing an EUR 80m fine from Brussels and could collapse, so that any merger is out of the question.
- One problem for Tallinn Airport is that there will now be fewer transit passengers. In nine months, Estonian Air carried 177,149 transit passengers, significantly more than in 2011.
According to him, Estonian Air made Tallinn a very successful transit point. "The best part was the night flights. For instance in the summer, the Tbilisi route brought a plane full of Georgians to Tallinn and in the morning they flew on to all over Europe. The same system works with Russian tourists,” he explained, adding that Ryanair has been also benefiting from transit passengers in Tallinn.
- Sakkov says that also hopes to start serving flights to Asia are over.
- "For years we have been working with the project of how to make Estonian bigger. It’s about becoming a transit airport for flights between Asia and Europe, something that our geographical location supports.”
Estonian media are discussing the replacement of Tero Taskila with Jan Palmér as the new CEO of Estonian Air and the airline’s future, Postimees daily reported last week. peculations were fuelled last week with the admission of the Prime Minister Andrus Ansip that Estonian Air may go bankrupt.
Some have been questioning the whole role of Palmér.
TV3 reporter Sven Soiver, for instance, said that his impression of the press conference where Taskila’s replacement was announced was that, instead of an immediate closure of the airline, Palmér’s job is to come up with the plan how to reduce to the minimum the cost of the airline’s inevitable bankruptcy to the state in contractual penalties, compensation of fares, etc. and how to sell existing contracts, customer base and slots as profitably as possible.
“Even Palmér’s employment contract was made for a fixed term,” Soiver wrote. In the meantime, Taskila who earned 33,000 euros a month in Estonian Air has said that he planned to remain in Estonia. His most memorable quote was from the interview he gave to Õhtuleht in July: “I sometimes feel that 1.1 million people in Estonia know better than me how to run an airline.”