2018 brings fastest development in Riga Airport’s history

Riga Airport Latvia’s capital airport served 7.06 million passengers last year, representing 45 per cent of the entire Baltic air passenger market (Riga Airport)

With the goal of becoming “a modern and convenient north European hub and serving at least 10 million passengers a year by 2023”, Riga Airport (RIX) wound up 2018 with an encouraging increase in its key performance indicators.

Latvia’s capital airport served 7.06 million passengers in 2018, nearly 16 per cent up year-on-year and representing 45 per cent of the entire Baltic air passenger market. The volume of cargo increased by 10.4 per cent, exceeding 27,000 tonnes, and the volume of flights increased by 11.5 per cent as RIX handled 83,500 aircraft in 2018.

“This outcome is the result of purposeful work and [our] long-term strategy… from this year on we will focus on the expansion of passenger service infrastructure and development of the cargo sector. In today’s global world, well-developed infrastructure and low costs are the main weapons of competition among airports,” observes Ilona Līce the airport’s chairwoman.

In 2019, the airport is to implement stage six of its terminal expansion scheme, under which a new public terminal and related infrastructure will be added. These additions will help to overcome existing passenger service capacity issues – that are currently being catered for by the introduction of temporary improvements to the public part of the old 1974-built terminal – by extending the baggage belts, accommodating additional baggage sorting facilities, enlarging the pre-security-inspection waiting area and increasing the number of check-in desks.

The new terminal will be connected to the airport’s railway station, thereby providing passengers with a fast connection not only to the capital of Latvia, but also to the entire Rail Baltica network which covers the Baltic States, Poland and Finland, Līce explains.

In parallel with the stage six passenger terminal construction, the airport is also planning an extensive development of its cargo-handling facilities. The construction of a new cargo apron, with an underground refuelling system, will start in 2019, as part of a development which will allow more large-fuselage aircraft to be served at the airport and which will also relieve pressure on the current apron aircraft stands.

The plan is to develop RIX into a modern cargo logistics centre, with an area of more than 10 000 square metres. “Even though Riga Airport is already serving half of all Baltic aircraft, the cargo sector has great potential for further development. For example, the airport’s experience of handling [increasing volumes] of Chinese e-commerce shipments last year demonstrates our ability to compete in this area,” says the airport’s top manager.

The Latvian airport is also working on other infrastructure and technology improvement projects, including the modernisation and expansion of taxiing routes, rebuilding the airport’s public access roads, the reconstruction of the technical services building, as well as upgrading the facility’s rainwater sewerage system and lighting infrastructure.

Līce emphasises that the decision taken last year by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers to allow the company to channel its profits into its improvement project is of key importance for the implementation of the airport’s overall development ambitions. Some 23 per cent of 2017’s profits will be paid as dividends, but the remaining 77 per cent is to be redirected for development. Then, in the next four years, 80 per cent of profits will be invested in the airport’s development projects. As such, all of the development projects will be financed by the airport’s own resources, without the need for state budget support. The total planned medium-term investment is set at EUR 139 million.

Currently, the 20 airlines operating at RIX offer more than 70 destinations in the winter season and 100 in the summer season.

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