Energy Industry Helps Bring International Routes to Aberdeen

Latvian national carrier airBaltic is in discussions to launch a new direct air service between Riga and Aberdeen, the airline has revealed as the airport in North-east Scotland continues to leverage on the energy sector to bring new air services.   News of the planned Riga link was revealed just days after regular flights connecting Aberdeen with a key oil and gas location in Norway were launched by bmi regional.

Although no formal agreement is yet in place between airBaltic and Aberdeen International Airport, officials at the Latvian carrier confirm they are “putting the finishing touches” to their plans to launch the new route to the UK.  Currently at the planning stages of the schedule, the new route which will be operational in spring 2014 will offer convenient connections between the two cities and beyond to destinations in the Baltic region, Scandinavia, Russia and the CIS countries.

“We are now making the necessary preparations for a new Aberdeen - Riga route to offer excellent connections via Riga to and from destinations such as Baku, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa.”

Michael Grimme
Chief Commercial Officer, airBaltic

It is predicted that the service will operate four days a week.  It will provide an important service to businesses at both ends of the route, as well as feeding the growing leisure market thanks to the popularity of Riga as a short-break destination from the North-east of Scotland.

“Every month, airBaltic has been achieving consistently good results.  This means we can now bring it back to our customers by offering affordable tickets and new destinations.  We are now making the necessary preparations for a new Aberdeen - Riga route to offer excellent connections via Riga to and from destinations such as Baku, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Kiev, Odessa,” said Michael Grimme, chief commercial officer, airBaltic.

Alongside the point-to-point demand, the link will provide many new connection opportunities from Aberdeen and the opportunity, including a new one-stop option to the Azerbaijan capital, Baku, a destination that has been served directly from Aberdeen in the past, supporting demand from the energy industry.

“The energy industry will benefit from this route,” said Carol Benzie commercial director, Aberdeen International Airport.  “Many of our business passengers will value this service into Riga as well as the onward connections that serving this hub will provide.  On top of that it will be welcomed by our leisure passengers who see Riga as a popular short break destination.”

Meanwhile, UK carrier bmi regional inaugurated a weekday only link between Aberdeen and Kristiansund on August 28, 2013, using one of its 49-seat Embraer ERJ 145 regional jets.  The link further enhances connectivity between two important bases for oil and gas activity in the North Sea.

Kristiansund is the major oil and gas city on Norway’s mid north-western coast.  Both Shell and Statoil have offices in the city from where they serve their offshore installations at Haltenbanken, one of the most northerly subsea oil and gas provinces in the world.  There are currently around a dozen offshore installations (including subsea structures) being serviced from Kristiansund and this will increase to over 30 by 2020, including the building of a 500 km gas pipeline.

The Kristiansund route is the second new scheduled service launched by bmi regional from Aberdeen in the past year and follows a domestic connection to Bristol which was started in October 2012.  The airline also operates from Aberdeen to Esbjerg in Denmark, Manchester and Norwich and is already recognised in the Scandinavian market with UK services out of Gothenburg in Sweden and Billund, Copenhagen and Esbjerg in Denmark.

“bmi regional has a longstanding relationship with the oil and gas industry based upon our scheduled services out of Aberdeen and the bespoke charter solutions we provide in the UK, Scandinavia and across Europe,” said Ian Woodley, chairman, bmi regional.  “Our newest route out of Aberdeen links two important energy industry locations and will support business activity on both sides of the North Sea. In addition to business travel there are established tourism and cultural connections between the North-east of Scotland and Norway, which we anticipate will result in additional leisure traffic.”

Carol Benzie, commercial director, Aberdeen International Airport spoke to The HUB at Routes Europe in May 2013 about the airport’s development strategy.

Despite the strong energy links this is the first time Aberdeen and Kristiansund have been directly linked.  “This is an exciting route launch for the airport team,” explained Carol Benzie, commercial director, Aberdeen International Airport.  “Of course the benefits for the energy industries at each end of this route are clear, but we also hope that it will provide an opportunity for North-east tourism – attracting new visitors from Norway to our region.”

Norway is a key trading partner for North-east Scotland businesses in the energy sector and this new air service should create new opportunities for business growth at a time of on-going high investment levels in both the UK and Norwegian sectors.  According to Scottish Enterprise, Norway is the fourth largest market for Scotland's oil & gas supply chain which was worth an estimated £690 million in international sales in 2011/12.  This route has great potential for supply chain companies looking to increase trade in this key market, as well as for Norwegian investors looking for opportunities in Scotland.