Liepāja Airport hopeful of 2022 revival

At Liepāja Airport, airBaltic may not resume scheduled flights this year. Although there are no scheduled flights, this has not completely stopped activity at the airport serving Latvia's third-largest city, which was developing rapidly when the Covid crisis brought large parts of the aviation sector to a standstill. 

Nevertheless, there was a record number of flights at the airport last year, more than four thousand, helped by the fact that airBaltic's Pilot Academy has a base in Liepāja, with by private and business flights also helping to boost the number. 

Now there are hopes the airport's development plans can get back on track. An aviation show is even planned for Liepāja Airport this summer, reports Latvian Radio.

On the ground at Liepāja Airport, the passenger terminal is completely quiet and half-dark. Scheduled flights have not been operating for about a year and a half. It was planned to resume flights in May last year, but neither then nor now has it proven possible.

Although the number of passengers carried by airBaltic increased by 21% last year compared to 2020's catastrophic figure, the level of flights in 2019 has not yet been reached and is unlikely to be achieved until 2023, Didzis Rudmanis, a representative of airBaltic, told Latvian Radio.

"If we look at next summer, the planned flight schedule has been published and tickets are already available. Unfortunately, this does not provide for the resumption of flights from Rīga to Liepāja. The resumption of flights would still depend on passenger demand and the epidemiological situation in the country, if we consider how this applies to the Liepaja route. A significant part of passengers flew to Liepāja from other countries via Rīga, but as the number of passengers from Rīga is currently significantly lower, it directly affects the demand for flights to Liepāja,” says Rudmanis.

Agris Sprūde, the head of SIA Aviasabiedrība Liepāja, the company which operates the airport, says there is still activity, though the length of the disruption caused by the pandemic is frustrating.

"2021 was, unfortunately, the second year of a pandemic. Like society as a whole, it is very tiring, very tiring and business-disruptive. The pandemic has affected travel opportunities, and aviation is one of the sectors that has suffered the most,” says Sprūde.

"If we look at last year, there was no connectivity of passenger transport from Liepāja, however at the same time other types of aviation are developing. People are developing opportunities in private and business aviation. We can observe that last year, business and charter aviation from Liepāja Airport increased, despite the pandemic,” continues Sprūde.

"If we add up the flights that took place at Liepāja Airport last year, then it is more than ever. I have no statistics about the Soviet era, when there was a military zone here. 4,200 flights have been serviced,” reveals Sprūde.

The services of Liepāja Airport also continue to be used by the Pilot Academy, which was established three years ago by airBaltic. It had to adapt to distance learning, and for some time it was not possible to have face-to-face flights, but the profession of pilot remains an attractive one.

"At the end of the year 2021, 24 students of the Pilot Academy started their professional careers at airBaltic. At the beginning of 2022, there will be another 18, and a similar number will be at the end of this year,” says Kristaps Lapsa, Executive Director of the airBaltic Training Pilot Academy.

He thinks that after the pandemic, pilots will only become more in demand. There will also be a demand for aircraft technicians, who are being trained in cooperation with Liepāja State Technical School.

"Some have retired, other pilots have started their own business, and the workforce in the aviation industry has fallen. If flights return to the level of 2019, there will be a very large labor shortage, even greater than before,” predicts Kristaps Lapsa.

With the arrival of spring, flights of the students of the Pilot Academy will be a more regular sight over Liepāja, and if all goes well, an ambitious aviation show is planned for August 7 and 8 this year.

 

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