CEO of Lithuanian Airports chats to us: incentivise & properly support airlines & business partners
We talk to Marius Gelzinis, CEO of Lithuanian Airports, about COVID-19 and what the Group is doing about it.
Negotiations ramped up for the return of essential routes as cargo grows 17%
anna.aero (AA): What has been the measurable impact of COVID-19 on your airports?
Marius Gelzinis (MG): Lithuanian Airports are drastically affected by the pandemic as no regular passenger flights have operated since mid-April 2020.
In preparation to return to normal airport operations and growth, Lithuanian Airports have ramped up their negotiations with air carriers for the return of essential routes. That is the key target for our team for the nearest future along with additional safety measures adoption inside the airports too.
All three international airports of Lithuania served 1.104 million passengers in Q1 2020 – 16.4% less than during the same period in 2019. In March 2020, Lithuanian Airports served 202,000 passengers, which is 56% less than in March 2019.
These statistics will reduce even more in Q2 this year when the ‘full’ consequences of COVID-19 hit.
On a positive note, in Q1 2020, Lithuanian Airports handled 17% more air freight than in the same period last year. This is related mainly from medical equipment.
Vilnius Airport sets up cinema on apron
AA: What disruption/crisis management initiatives have been implemented as a result of COVID-19?
MG: Lithuanian Airports has long served as a catalyst for the development of Lithuania’s economy. Now, we are in close contact with our stakeholders – business and travel partners, municipalities, institutions, and organisations – that together can offer financial support to airlines to reinstall strategically important routes.
Only by working together we can bring aircraft back into the skies while we continue to serve as gateways to Lithuania and the world.
The COVID-19 crisis affects not only airports, but also the businesses present inside of them. In aiming to maintain sustainable ties with our business partners, Lithuanian Airports offers a relief package, the aim of which is to significantly ease the operating conditions. All business partners that were directly affected by the sudden drop in passenger numbers will not be required to pay rent for premises, facilities, and parking. Furthermore, after the quarantine is lifted, business partners will have the option to delay rental payments for the first two months by 90 days.
We have seen that in times of crises and immense operational and logistical challenges, colleagues from various departments unite and seamlessly work towards a single goal. We aim to keep all our people in their positions. As a result, from March 31st until May 31st, all employees of Lithuanian airports are reducing their weekly working hours, which will allow everyone to maintain their job positions.
Hard times can inspire extraordinary ideas. For the first time in history, we set up a drive-in cinema on Vilnius’ apron area. This initiative was seen by millions all around the world and helped us to show that airports are not closed during the pandemic and that they are, instead, waiting for passengers to come back when times are better.
Lithuanian Airports: new incentive scheme & more time to pay fees
AA: How is Lithuanian Airports supporting airlines?
MG: Passenger safety at the airports and on flights was and will be essential in the initial phase of returning flights. We have established a package of safety measures to be implemented.
Also, there are some measures that will encourage airlines to reinstate passenger flights:
- Firstly, airlines will have an additional 60 days to pay airport charges.
- Secondly, we have updated our route development strategy for both the short- and long-term. We have developed a new incentive programme to facilitate the return of flights and passengers. We have also revised our current incentive programmes with even more initiatives for the recovery and long-term development.
As a result, we are reopening two routes in mid-May: from Vilnius to Riga (airBaltic) and Frankfurt (Lufthansa). These were negotiated and approved by our Government representatives as one of the steps to reopen the total lockdown for passenger aviation.
Lithuanian Airports: the future could be positive and encouraging
AA: What insights can you share about what you expect to happen next?
MG: There is a lot of speculation about the future and how it is going to be, but one thing we should understand is that we will be never the same after this pandemic and it might be also a positive, encouraging thing for aviation.
Aviation has always faced great challenges, whether technical with manufacturing of aircraft or financial downturns which also affected us long-term. No matter what, we managed to grow and in some case even double our activities. I strongly believe that our need to travel and to stay connected will be a necessary thing in the near future.