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Riga International Airport boosts its passenger traffic by attracting foreign passengers

In the first six months of 2009 the number of passengers welcomed at Riga International Airport has grown by approximately 10 per cent year on year. In the first half of the year Riga International Airport joined the leaders of the European airport community by demonstrating the fastest growth in passenger traffic - an extraordinary achievement in the generally declining airport industry.

In the first half of this year the passenger traffic at Riga International Airport grew by 9.7 per cent compared with the same period of 2008, reaching the number of 1 819 847 passengers.

In this period Riga International Airport has provided services to 60 per cent of the passengers handled at the airports of the Baltic capitals.

Tallinn Airport in the same period handled 658 965 passengers or 26.8 per cent less than last year while Vilnius Airport welcomed 599 342 passengers or 39.5 per cent less than in the first six months of 2008.

Vilnius International Airport in the first half of the year provided services to 19 per cent and Tallinn International Airport - to 21 per cent of the passengers handled in the Baltic states. The international airports of the neighbouring countries in the six months of 2009 handled 1.258 million passengers whereas Riga International Airport reached the number of 1 819 847 passengers (Chart No 1).

Chart No1

„These figures are significant as they show that Riga International Airport at present is one of the most demanded export products of Latvia,” said Krišjānis Peters, Chairman of the Board of Riga International Airport commenting upon the results.

According to the data of ACI Europe (Airports Council International ) in May 2009 Riga International Airport had achieved the increase in passenger traffic by 10 per cent year on year which was one of the highest passenger traffic results among the airports of Europe. Overall air passenger traffic had fallen by 9.1 compared with May 2008.

„Despite the downturn and the recession in the global and European aviation we have managed to achieve growth in this market situation by attracting passengers from other countries. On the one hand, Riga Airport is becoming attractive and convenient for the passengers of the neighbouring countries, yet on the other hand, we must prepare ourselves for very tough competition indeed. In this situation a concerted, work of all stakeholders focussed on development of the aviation industry is vitally important,” stressed Krišjānis Peters.

The number of transfer and transit passengers continues to grow strongly. Compared with the first six months of 2008, the number of transfer and transit passengers has risen by 319 percent. If in the first half of 2008 the share of transfer and transit passengers accounted for 7 per cent in the total passenger traffic, in the six months of 2009 it had already reached 29.8 per cent (Chart No 2). In its development strategy Riga International Airport focuses particularly on transit passenger traffic.

Chart No 2

 The most popular destination in the first six months of 2009 was London. 148 447 passengers or 8.4 percent of the total number went there. London has been attracting record numbers of travellers since 2005 when it replaced the previous leader – Copenhagen – the capital pf Denmark. The second place in 2009 is won by Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, with 115 644 passengers or 6.5 per cent of the total number. 227 per cent growth was achieved by the third most preferred destination – Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. 100 152 passengers or 5.5 per cent of the total number were flown there. In 2008 Vilnius was only in the 17th position. The fourth and the fifth place were given to the destinations in the Nordic countries: Helsinki, the capital of Finland, and Oslo, the capital of Norway, with 76 496 and 70 341 travellers respectively. The passenger flow has substantially increased to and from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, – up by 147 per cent to 69 237 passengers. In the first half of 2008 Tallinn was in the 21st position whereas this year it is the 9th most popular destination at Riga International Airport. One of last year's most visited destinations Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has slipped from its second position to the sixth this year with 69 932 passengers or 31 per cent less than in 2008.

„The changes in the popularity of destinations show that the passenger flows have rapidly increased in the direction of the Nordic, Scandinavian and Baltic countries and are growing in the direction of Russia, the CIS and South Europe. According to these data, Riga International Airport is chosen as a convenient point for connected flights,” said Mr Peters.

In the six months of 2009 62.5 per cent of the total passenger traffic at Riga International Airport were carried by the airline airBaltic, 23.1 per cent by Ryanair, 2.4 per cent by KLM, 1.9 per cent by SmartLynx, 1.8 per cent by Norwegian Air Shuttle and 1.7 per cent by Czech Airlines and Lufthansa.

Currently from Riga International Airport flights are operated to 69 direct destinations. In the first half of 2009 six new routes were opened: to Tromse (Norway), Palanga and Kaunas (Lithuania), Linkoping (Sweden), Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and Forli (Italy).