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AirBaltic to Double Flight Operations in Finland

The Latvian national carrier AirBaltic plans to establish a hub in Finland within the next few years which will handle 10-15 direct daily flights to various destinations.

AirBaltic aikoo perustaa Suomeen parin vuoden kuluessa oman solmukentän, josta tulee olemaan noin 10-15 suoraa yhteyttä maailmalle. Image: YLE

AirBaltic has reported on its plans to the Finnish Ministry of Transport. The report is connected to the company's intention of purchasing the private Finnish carrier Finncomm Airlines. AirBaltic plans to double its flight operations in Finland next year.

In July the Latvian airline expects to carry around 50,000 passengers to and from Finland. Its target for the year is one half million.

With its rapidly expanding operations, the company has been seeking cooperation partners. AirBaltic's commercial director Tero Taskila concedes that Finncomm Airlines could be one such partner.

"I cannot comment on the state of negotiations, but I can confirm that negotiations are underway and they are continuing," Taskila told YLE.

On Wednesday, AirBaltic informed Transport and Communications Minister Anu Vehviläinen about its plans. Company growth is largely based on regional traffic. By next summer, flights from nine local airports to Latvia will be seen twice a day.

"Our goal is to see that around 85 percent of the five million Finns can fly AirBaltic from their local airport by next summer," says Taskila.

New hub

In addition, AirBaltic plans to establish a new hub in Finland within a few years which will provide direct flights to central Europe.

The strongest candidates for the location of the hub are Oulu, Tampere and Turku.

AirBaltic has been seeking a Nordic partner since the spring. Talks with Sweden's Skyways ran aground in May because of the weak financial condition of the Swedish company.

Serious talks on deal with Finncomm have been going on for about a month. Finnair has also had talks about purchasing Finncomm, but considers the asking price as too high.

Part of the interest by owners of selling Finncomm is discontent with cooperation with Finnair. In the wake of the global economic crisis, Finncomm made losses last year and the Icelandic dust ash cloud kept many of its flights on the ground this year.

Relations between the two companies have also been strained by the lease of two jets from Finnair. The planes represent over-capacity and under contract terms Finncomm can fly them only on routes designated by Finnair.

If no deal is made for the purchase of Finncomm, AirBaltic plans to set up its own regional commuter airline in Finland.