Regional Finnish airport, Lappeenranta is set offer greater flexibility to its airlines and passengers following privatisation next year.
The state-owned airport was given the green light to become the first airport in Finland to be excluded from the national network, and has a five-year business plan with a view to reach 300,000 passengers. This will open up an array of new pricing and service opportunities for Lappeenranta.
The airport’s manager, Petteri Lehti said the airport will have the possibility to network different stakeholders providing new business possibilities, such as technical staff, engineering and economics in order to reach the passenger goal.
“An independent business model will make it easier for us to talk to the airlines and find out what their needs are,” said Lehti.
The airport’s main attribute is its location – situated just over 200km from St Petersburg, Lappeenranta is the easiest alternative for airlines finding it difficult to enter Russia. It can take as little as two hours to reach the Russian city from Lappeenranta by both train and car.
“Russia has multiple regulations and some airlines struggle to meet these. For an airline who wants to get into the Russian market, Lappeenranta is an easy option since it is situated inside the EU and we are following EU regulations,” said Lehti.
Irish low-cost carrier, Ryanair currently serves the airport, offering connections to Milan and Dusseldorf: “Ryanair has been calling us St Petersburg West,” joked Lehti.
Traffic between the EU and Russia is highly regulated, and with a Russian catchment area of over eight-million people, Lappeenranta hopes to increase their market. Currently the south-eastern airport serves 60 percent Russian passengers, 30 percent Finnish, and 10 percent from a variety of destinations. “We are flexible to serve people from both inside and outside the EU, everybody is welcome here,” added Lehti.
Lappeenranta airport is located only 2km from the city centre, and founded in 1918; it is the oldest operating airport in Finland and has played a significant role in Finnish aviation history. The airport is also fortunate enough to have surplus space to build new facilities, meaning it can react quickly to put in place extended services.
Regional Mayor Matti Viialainen said the privatisation of Lappeenranta will allow the airport to become more flexible, and reduce the operational costs.
“When you own your own regional airport, you are more inclined to promote it and market it,” he added.
The airport hopes to target low-cost carriers and offer cheaper direct routes to Europe, without passengers needing to fly via Helsinki: “It is very convenient to travel from your own airport, it saves not only money but time,” added Viialainen. The independent business model will also offer European tourists easy access into Lappeenranta.
Viialainen said Ryanair is a strong European airline: “They have good experiences – there is no lack of passengers. We are looking after an operator that could offer us a route to a European hub,” he added.
The airport hopes to being operating privately from January 1, 2016, and its Letter of Intent (LOI) to the State of Finland or privatisation has almost been finalised, though Lappeenranta has not got the green light just yet.
In terms of tourism, Lappeenranta is a growing tourism centre and the commercial centre of South-East Finland. The region offers Lake Saimaa – the largest lake in Finland, and the fourth largest natural freshwater lake in Europe, which connects to the Saimaa Canal which provides transport vessels to and from Lappeenranta. The city is a popular destination with Russian tourists, welcoming more than 2 million in 2014.
With its 72,000 inhabitants and 13,000 students, Lappeenranta is the home of leading technology and energy university – Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT).
Lappeenranta Airport will be represented by both Kimmo Kuikka and Petteri Lehti at this year’s Routes Europe event in Aberdeen. Make sure to book in meeting time to find out more about this fantastic development, and the opportunities available at Lappeenranta.