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Kaunas Airport

Feature


Low-cost

boom? Lithuanian airports continue to expand

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KAUNAS AIRPORT

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hink Kaunas is a hotbed of postSoviet mafia? Think again. It is a vibrant city, the second largest in Lithuania, and a thriving cultural and industrial centre. “Kaunas is a city on the up and up,” says Jurate Baltrusaityte, Commercial Manager of Kaunas Airport. Kaunas Airport, which has grown rapidly following the expansion of Irish budget carrier Ryanair in mid-2010, is one of the Baltic region’s fastest growing airports. “We were delighted when Ryanair opened its 40th and first Central European base at Kaunas in May 2010,” says Baltrusaityte. “It is the largest airline at the airport.”

“We were delighted when Ryanair opened its 40th and first Central European base at Kaunas in May 2010, It is the largest airline at the airport”

European Outlook talks to Jurate Baltrusaityte, Commercial Manager of Kaunas Airport, one of the Baltic region’s fastest growing airports. By Ian Armitage

She explains that things are about to get even better for the airport in 2012, with plans for several new routes, while Ryanair is also looking set up an aircraft maintenance, repair and operations unit in Kaunas to support its Boeing 737-800 fleet maintenance requirements. “It is an exciting time. Kaunas Airport is appearing in the European arena as attractive airport in terms of business expansion and investment.” The airport, located some 15km northeast of Kaunas, started operations in 1988. In 1991, after Lithuania’s independence, it was established as an international airport, Baltrusaityte says. 3


KAUNAS AIRPORT

A new terminal for passengers was opened in March 2008, designed to handle up to 800,000 passengers per year. “Further terminal extension is planned, with a higher annual passenger throughput,” Baltrusaityte explains, attributing a lot of the airport’s recent successes to having a vision for the future and finding the right market. “Kaunas has been an international airport for many years, although, until the arrival of Ryanair, there was a niche in the Lithuanian air travel market, a need for low-cost travel. We succeed and Ryanair landed base at Kaunas Airport in 2010; it was a revolutionary step and that year we recorded biggest growth in Europe – a 77 percent leap in passenger numbers.” Four international airlines use Kaunas. And it is expanding. “We have obviously Ryanair, while we also have IrAero, a Russian airline operating

from Kaunas to Moscow Domodedovo, Air Baltic, and now WOW Air, which is operated by Avion Express,” says Baltrusaityte. Icelandic carrier WOW air will connect Kaunas to Reykjavik starting from June 11, 2012. The airline will operate a 168-seater Airbus A320-200 on the route. The flights will be operated once a week, on Mondays. “This exciting destination is great news. Adding Reykjavik to the Kaunas flight map means we will have a total of 24 destinations to choose from for our passengers.” WOW air is a young airline, founded in 2011, operating a fleet of Airbus A320-200 aircraft. Its flight network covers 12 European airports. Kaunas will be the 13th one. WOW airfares include taxes and baggage allowance of up to 20 kg for each passenger.

Litcargus Established in 1993 Litcargus is the first independent private owned ground handling company in Lithuania. Starting from a Lufthansa flights handling team, Litcargus has grown to a well known trustworthy partner for airlines in Vilnius Airport. In 2004 the Kaunas branch was opened. Taking into account high quality service can be provided even under time pressure, low fare airline Ryanair expanded its operations and opened a base here. In summer 2011 Litcargus arrived to Palanga, covering all commercial airports of Lithuania. A dedicated team of highly qualified employees provides high quality service ensuring customer satisfaction offering full range of ground handling services: passenger and baggage handling, ramp services, ticketing, GSA, VIP services along with a modern and fully equipped cargo terminal in Vilnius. This year Litcargus shall change its brand name and will be known as Central European Airport Services (CEAS). Following strategy of constant growth, together with new owners Royalton Capital Investors II L.P., CEAS has targeted to become the strong and reliable partner for airlines in Central Europe, beginning to provide our services in the first Polish airport for summer 2012.

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It guarantees safe and comfortable trip, offering spacious aircraft for the longlegged, healthy nourishment for the health conscious and happy friendly staff for all passengers. “The new route will be for the summer of 2012,” Baltrusaityte says. Although Kaunas does not compare itself to major hubs like Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm, the rampant upward trend in passenger traffic has been positive and the future is bright, says Baltrusaityte. Last year’s traffic at Lithuanian airports was the highest on record. “Passenger numbers here have not dropped in nine years. We believe it is a successful strategy to follow further.” According to data from the Statistic Department, a total of 2.7 million passengers passed through Lithuanian airports (Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga) in 2011, a 17.9 percent hike compared to 2010. “Air transportation is being expanded very successfully in the country,” says Baltrusaityte. “To support that growth further terminal extension is planned. We haven’t set a clear timeline for that yet, but we are planning moderate modernisation in 2012.” Kaunas Airport reported two times more passengers in 2011 6

“Last year’s traffic at Lithuanian airports was the highest on record”

and passenger flow went up by eight percent. “We consider the years 20102011 to be very good for the airport,” Baltrusaityte explains. The Airport also recognises the significance of financing of European Union structural funds, which have helped improve infrastructure. “EU funds are crucial in improving the infrastructure of all the airports. Only renovated and well performing Lithuanian airports can succeed in attracting more new air carriers and increasing passenger flows. “Several serious projects have been completed using EU financing at Kaunas.” And the good times are set to continue, with the launch of a new air hotel. “A Norwegian-Lithuanian JV company has established Air Hotel and have rented the land right next to the passenger

Working in close conjunction with the excellent management team at Kaunas Airport we have supported the airport´s development through the development of the terminal area feasibility study, the Kaunas Airpark feasibility study and the Airport´s Master Plan. These studies involved a full range of our skills including traffic forecasting, terminal and airport infrastructure planning, commercial and ancillary development, ground access strategy, financial and economic feasibility.

terminal in which to construct their hotel,” says Baltrusaityte. “It is an economy class hotel and discussions with the hotel chains are underway now and are at an advanced stage. An agreement should be reached soon. In the first stage there should be 90 rooms available. There are four stages of the hotel development plan and there might be development of up to 400 rooms.” She is excited by the project. “It will be great for passengers. They’ll be offered a really convenient service, at low cost.” To learn more about Kaunas Airport visit www.kaunas-airport.lt.


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