New board chairwoman appointed at Baltic’s largest airport, extraordinary saving measures to be introduced

Laila Odiņa has replaced Ilona Līce as the new chairperson of Riga Airport board

Riga airport crisis Riga airport’s all investment projects are to be slashed by 85 per cent, operating costs will be cut by 60 per cent and staff costs by 40 per cent (RIX)

Keeping up with a kind of tradition, Riga the Baltic’s largest airport, has appointed another woman to chair its board of directors.

Following the resignation due to health reasons of Ilona Līce, the long-term manager of Riga Airport (RIX) and “to ensure the continuity of the company’s management in the conditions of crisis,” the supervisory board of Riga International Airport has appointed current board member Laila Odiņa as its replacement chairperson says a statement. She will manage Riga Airport until a new chairperson of the board is elected via a competitive process.

“In this emergency, the airport cannot be left without a manager. An energetic, knowledgeable and experienced person is needed, whose main task will be to lead the company out of the crisis,” the statement adds. “The airport will never be the same again and the re-building of the company will have to start from the very beginning. We are convinced that Laila Odiņa is the most suitable candidate for this position until the new airport manager is selected,” says the statement.

Laila Odiņa is an established aviation professional, with long-term experience in the industry, including for international companies. She has been serving the airport’s supervisory board since April 2018. Prior to that, Odiņa was the chief operating officer of Latvian flag carrier airBaltic; the chief operating officer at Russia’s Utair Airlines; and was also the chief executive of Azerbaijan Airlines. Odiņa is a member of the board of Latvia’s Institute of Transport and Communication.

In the meantime, amidst the exceptional Covid-19 crisis in which air traffic has been almost completely suspended, the situation has forced RIX to introduce some extraordinary budget-saving measures whereby all current investment projects are to be slashed by 85 per cent, operating costs will be cut by 60 per cent and staff costs by 40 per cent.

The airport says its revenue is at critically low levels and it has experienced a revenue decrease of 98 per cent since the onset of the crisis. Its positive 2019 financial results as well as those at the beginning of this year are allowing it to cover its salaries and operating expenses in the short term only. Even though the company has been optimising its processes and has been cutting costs since the beginning of the crisis, the pessimistic forecasts for an aviation recovery in Europe may make RIX opt for even more difficult decisions, such as a significant reduction in the number of employees by June.

“In recent years, Riga Airport has been one of the fastest growing air traffic hubs in Europe. Such a radical decision – a significant reduction in the workforce – will be made only after all other cost reduction options have been exhausted,” says a statement from the airport’s executive board. “However, in the current unprecedented situation, the main objective of the Board is to keep the company operating at a level that would allow the airport to restore its operations after the crisis. We are confident that we will then be able to invite our employees to return to work,” emphasises the board.

Riga Airport is also reiterating its call to include those businesses related to airport operations in the list of specially supported contributors, as well as to decide on the granting of state aid “in order to provide the airport with sufficient resources to operate during this period and to resume operations fully after the crisis,” it adds.

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