Liepāja Airport has revival plans

Liepaja Airport resumed domestic flights after extensive rebuilding work in 2017 and had unexpectedly high demand over the next two years. As the pandemic began, passengers were no longer transported. Liepāja will be the European capital of Culture in 2027, and an influx of tourists is expected, Latvian Radio reported on January 19.

Liepāja airport is very sparsely populated in winter. Although there are plenty of cars in the parking lot, there is no visible activity either on the runway or in the air. Currently, in winter, the airBaltic pilot academy is intermittent and weather-dependent.

In Liepaja, the world rally championship and the 400th anniversary of the city are scheduled for the foreseeable future, while in 2027 Liepaja will be the European Capital of Culture.

The Mayor of the city Gunārs Ansiņš (Liepāja Party) emphasized that Liepaja residents have an interest in the renewal of flights:

"We have quite a lot of discussion with residents. We also use polls. And the latest survey pointed out that Liepājans are very interested, and connectivity is one of those priorities. And it is the airport that is mentioned."

Gunārs Ansiņš noted that Liepāja is second in terms of tourism sector indicators, and it is important to ensure connectivity with both the capital and other cities.

Meanwhile, Agris Sprūde, Board Member of LLC Aviosabiedrība Liepāja said it is also necessary to think about where tourists could be accommodated: "Liepāja, of course, is growing in its offer. [..] But now the hotels in Liepaja are full in the summer. So it must be understood if 200 tourists a week in Liepāja physically have a place to stay overnight."

The national airline airBaltic is the only airline that once operated flights between Rīga and Liepāja. The director of operational management of airBaltic and board Member Pauls Cālītis estimated that the company's overall performance in the past year has been good enough to think about the development of flights in Liepāja as well:

“Looking ahead to 2027, we are interested that the overall market being served and transported to Latvia is growing. Liepāja is an important city in terms of tourism and economy. If demand rises, we will also follow the needs of the market. Hopefully, we can find that opportunity to fly to Liepaja in the future.”

According to the representative of airBaltic, demand could increase by 2027. The City Council, along with the airline, plans to negotiate test flights as early as this summer, the mayor of Liepāja said:

“In the next few weeks, the manager of the airBaltic network will also be visiting Liepaja. Let's try to understand how likely test flights are this summer. Our offer is weekends, but of course you have to go there and do the numbers.”

Currently, Liepaja airport is populated by the airBaltic Pilots Academy, with more than 100 students. According to Cālītis, it is planned that some 30 to 50 pilots could finish the academy this year, who will be able to start their work on airBaltic.

Cooperation with Liepaja State Technical School is also ongoing, and the aircraft mechanics program was graduated last year by 10 young professionals. It could be said that a small aviation center is forming in Liepaja. Ansiņš also highlighted the importance of the airport, not only in terms of attracting tourists, but also in terms of national security:

“I think we should all understand together, also by looking at this threat of war, that Latvia as a country would need another security island. And this security island is probably Liepāja airport with its own infrastructure, which can serve just as well as being the subject of a civil-military partnership.”

The Ministry of Transport also confirmed it was thinking about renewing flights and, while it could not promise anything, it is likely that test flights will be conducted as early as this summer.

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