New airfield infrastructure serves like a gateway to aviation cargo segment
According to recent data of airport performance, the number of passengers at Riga Airport during the first half year of 2019, compared to the same period of last year, has increased by nearly 10%.
During the first six months of 2019, Riga Airport welcomed 3.5 million passengers which is 9.6% more than the same period last year. Nearly third of the number – 27.9% – were transit passengers making use of the fast and easy way to travel from Riga Airport to any of the 100+ destinations in Europe, Nordic Europe and Asia.
The number of flights at Riga Airport has increased by 3.8% during the first half year of 2019, and in total Riga has served more than 41.5 thousand flights this year.
During the first six months of 2019, national airline airBaltic has served more than 2 million passengers at Riga Airport and remains the top airline with 57.3% of market share. The next top passenger carrier in Riga with 14.3% of the market is the Irish low-fare airline Ryanair, which carried more than 0.5 million passengers during the first half year of 2019. Hungarian low-fare airline Wizz Air ranks third with a market share of 8.2% and 209.7 thousand served passengers during the same period.
“According to operative data of the first half year, Riga Airport continues its rise and welcomes ever more passengers. The good thing is that after experiencing a slight decline in the beginning of the year, we now see a two-digit increase also in the cargo segment. In May 2019, the airline Atran started operating regular flights connecting Hangzhou in China to Riga. Moreover, this airline operates weekly air cargo transportation from Riga to Moscow (Vnukovo) with an option to connect with further domestic flights and flights to CIS countries. These regular cargo flights are a significant contribution to the cargo turnover of Riga Airport”, according to Ilona Līce, chairperson of the board at Riga Airport.
Airport to welcome a new cargo apron and logistics centre
According to Līce, the construction of a new cargo apron is another step in the development of Riga Airport infrastructure, and in the nearest future this will allow for significant capacity increase of air cargo servicing and enable new cargo operators to enter the airport. The preferred bidder selected for construction of the new apron is the road construction company from Latvia – SIA Binders.
An apron designed for cargo planes will allow Riga Airport to double its capacity in servicing air cargoes and will make the airport more attractive to cargo carries from all around the world. The new apron will feature three wide-body plane parking lots with a flexible layout, which enables accepting all types of planes. The apron will be equipped with a system of underground petrol filling hydrants, which contributes to faster plane servicing and increased competitiveness of the airport among international logistics chains.
“Thinking of the rapidly changing aviation cargo segment affected both by technology advancements and increased consumption, and political factors, the location of Latvia is no longer the key to attracting cargo flows. At present, the central and distinctive role in attracting and developing international cargo logistics solutions is low-cost infrastructure, high service quality, clear and simple customs procedures, and added value, which based on innovations can be provided by involved companies and controlling authorities”, Līce, chairperson of the board at Riga Airport telling. “Therefore, the central task of the airport is to provide appropriate infrastructure and favourable cooperation platform to foster new cargo carriers to enter the airport and to increase the air cargo turnover”, as highlighted by the company manager.
Along with the new apron construction, the airport continues with the development of the cargo logistics centre. In the nearest future, a new DHL shipment processing centre is about to be opened in the territory of the airport; and a multifunctional logistics centre is envisaged in cooperation with investors.
At present, the volume of air cargo shipments in Latvia is based on four pillars: export and import of high added value goods, postal and e-commerce shipments, servicing transit air cargoes, and non-military cargo transit for the purposes of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) located in the Northern supply corridor to Afghanistan. According to Līce, a positive move is VAS Latvijas Pasts entering the e-commerce shipment segment, which was made possible by a successful logistics solution in cooperation with the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Russian Post; as a result, since 2017 irregular cargo charter flights are operated from China to Riga. The business of DHL, TNT and UPS courier post continue their success in Latvia.
In 2018, Riga Airport served 28.2 thousand tonnes air cargoes, i.e. By 10.7% more than the year before. The share of Latvia in the Baltic air cargo shipment market amounts to 51%.
No disruption due to major construction works
During the construction of the new apron, around 95,000 m2 of construction territory is fenced at the northern end of the airport to build a special infrastructure, which would allow the concurrent servicing and manoeuvring of several cargo and transport planes. According to the construction plan, an apron and a connecting manoeuvring way with a concrete surfacing with a total area of 36,770 m2, along with new service ways with asphalt concrete surface with a total area of 14,970 m2 will be built. The apron will be equipped with the latest place servicing facilities and equipment.
According to Aigars Sēja, chairman of the board of the road construction company SIA Binders: “The company is experienced with delivering such specific construction works, which goes back to being involved in the Lielvārde military airfield reconstruction and renovation of Liepāja Airport. A crucial aspect within the project is accurate organisation of construction works coupling technology performance criteria with the airport work organisation and security requirements. Our employees have been subject to special training, and we plan the work process to exactly meet the contractual obligations and design solutions.”
According to the contract, the construction works shall be completed within 17 months. During the major construction works, the operation of the airport will not be disrupted. Contract Fee amounts to 14,949,839 EUR, excl. VAT.
Riga Airport is a fast-growing air traffic hub in Northern Europe. The 20 airlines operating at Riga Airport offer more than 90 destinations in the winter season and more than 100 destinations in the summer season. In 2018, Riga Airport serviced more than 7 million passengers, i.e., nearly half of the total number of air passengers of the Baltic States.