Growing pressure from competitors has forced Nordica, Estonia’s flag carrier, to discard three unprofitable routes from its Tallinn hub, giving neighbouring Latvian carrier airBaltic the biggest number of routes now serving the Estonian capital.
From 14 January, Nordica will no longer be operating flights to St Petersburg, Oslo and Amsterdam. The airline’s winter schedule will include only eight direct flights from Tallinn: to Stockholm, Vilnius, Copenhagen, Brussels, Kyiv, Warsaw, Vienna and Munich.
Currently, airBaltic offers direct services from Tallinn to London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Vilnius, Riga and has recently added Stockholm and Oslo to the roster. For the summer of 2019, the Latvian airline will introduce three new destinations from Estonia’s biggest city to Malaga, Brussels and Copenhagen.
Nordica admits it is ceasing to service these routes because “the current competition conditions render [them] economically unviable”. The airline is instead planning to use freed-up aircraft and crew by offering profitable subcontracted third-party services. It currently already exports such flight services to Sweden, Denmark and Poland.
Hannes Saarpuu, the head of the Nordic Aviation Group, says that the closure of the St Petersburg and Amsterdam routes is because of limited demand, while the closure of the Oslo route is the result of fierce competition, making it financially unviable to fly to the Norwegian capital. “We’re better off channelling our resources into projects that are profitable and those that will boost our financial results,” he reveals. “First and foremost, we have to turn a profit, just like any other company and the changes we’re making to our route network will help us achieve that. Nordica’s flexibility and being able to respond to changes in the market as they happen are important factors in ensuring our long-term success.”
Nordica currently operates 19 aircraft, of which 10 or so start their days from the company’s base at Tallinn. According to plans for 2019, this number will not decrease. If further export projects are implemented, it may increase. Nordica’s subsidiary Regional Jet OÜ continues to grow and demand for new pilots and cabin crew remains high.
In its three years of operations, Nordica has become one of the most competitive airlines in its region and the biggest airline in Estonian history. In the first 10 months of 2018 the airline flew almost 600,000 passengers, 20 per cent up year-on-year.
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