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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Estonian Air Intent On Making It Alone

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonia's national airline, Estonian Air, is confident it can go it alone in the post-Soviet market and sees no need for a link up with the airlines of the other two Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania.


Pan-Baltic cooperation was once considered the future of the three small states' airlines. Some consolidation is being seen as U.S.-based Baltic International is set to buy ailing Latvian national carrier Latavio.


But Estonian Air has received its first Boeing, and Director General Toomas Peterson is enthusiastic about the future.


"Estonian aviation has entered a new era," he said in an interview, commenting on the arrival of its new Boeing 737-500 last week. The jet is the first of three the company has bought, and starts operations July 12 as part of its modernization drive.


The company was formed from the Estonian branch of the Soviet airline Aeroflot in 1991.


It inherited a fleet of Tupolevs and Yakovlevs and plans to phase out the Tupolevs while the remaining Soviet planes have been refurbished.


Peterson said he did not see the need for cooperation with the other Baltic airlines.


"There is practically no cooperation between the Baltic national airlines now," he said. "First we have to develop ourselves structurally, and this may take several years."


But the company is seeking partners in the runup to privatization. Peterson said negotiations were going on with potential partners but declined to elaborate.


He was confident about the company's financial position. Last year, Estonian Air had a turnover of 290 million kroons ($26 million) and broke even, he added.


This compares to 1993 turnover of 205 million kroons and a loss of seven million kroons.


For 1995, Peterson predicted a turnover of 320 million kroons with the number of passengers expected to reach 180,000, up from a figure of 157,000 in 1994.


"Our economic situation is much better than that of Latavio," Peterson said. "And in the Baltic context, Estonian Air is the only company that can afford to have brand new Boeings. This shows something."


Air links between the three Baltic capitals are still in a confused state. There are regular flights between Tallinn in Estonia and Vilnius in Lithuania but Lithuanian Airlines, the national carrier, does not operate on that route.


There are no flights between Vilnius and the Latvian capital of Riga while an Estonian private airline operates twice a week between Riga and Tallinn.