Towards seamless regional air services also during the coronavirus epidemic
A working group on regional air services proposes that air transport services to Kokkola, Joensuu, Kajaani, Jyväskylä and Kemi airports be purchased by the state until the end of 2021. The group submitted its final report to Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka on 30 September 2020.
The working group considers that, in the exceptional situation caused by the coronavirus, solutions are needed to ensure predictability in air traffic to these areas that rely heavily on exports.
It is the working group’s proposal that the Transport and Communications Agency Traficom immediately start purchasing air transport services to Kokkola, Joensuu, Kajaani, Jyväskylä and Kemi airports. The tendering process related to the procurement would last approximately three to six months.
Finnair has already stated that it will restart some weekly routes to these airports from the end of October 2020 to the end of March 2021. Air services purchased by the state are planned to be started once the routes operated by Finnair end.
Following a competitive tendering, a temporary solution valid until the end of 2021 would provide time for finding a longer-term solution and for developing new market-based models to help overcome the acute crisis situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The key is that areas important for the national economy remain accessible also during the coronavirus epidemic. With the support, the links will be maintained, but this is not intended to be a precedent or become a permanent model,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka on the proposed support for the regional airports.
The working group stresses that the support would be a temporary solution. The accessibility of Finland, including the regions, must primarily be examined on a long-term basis in accordance with the national 12-year transport system plan that is to be submitted to Parliament in spring 2021.
Rapid response and continuity expected in the regions
The working group representatives emphasise the importance of immediate measures and outlook for the future. The role of air transport services is stressed in the context of business, industry, employment and tourism.
“I am pleased that the link between these five regions and international airports can be re-established. We cannot afford to lose jobs, international market share, trade or partners in any sector,” says Sari Moisanen, Regional Director from the Sea Lapland Development Centre.
“Central Finland is a region that relies heavily on exports. We need the information on the future flight schedule quickly and for a long-term basis as efficient air services are essential for export companies, business development and future investments,” says Ari Hiltunen, CEO of the Central Finland Chamber of Commerce
Risto Hämäläinen, Development Director from the City of Kajaani, also stresses the importance of air services for tourism, business and industry.
“I hope that the tendering process for air transport will start soon so that we will know the flight schedule for the next summer and autumn seasons. Long-term and efficient flight connections are vital for international tourism. The business sectors, including tourism, expect, as soon as possible, a sufficient degree of certainty as to what will happen after the purchased services end.
Sami Laakkonen, Public Relations Manager from the Regional Council of North Karelia, emphasises the importance of looking to the future.
“It is essential that the flights can be started and we can provide an outlook for the future for the stakeholders in the region. Establishing businesses or investing in Finland must not be hindered by poor air services to the regions. This guideline should be followed also in future.
Development Director Jonne Sandberg from the City of Kokkola reminds of cooperation.
“From the viewpoint of export industry in our region, I am pleased that the services will start and a solution for the transitional period has been ensured. However, we must still work together to ensure the continuity of air transport services,” says Development Director Sandberg.
On 21 August 2020, the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed a working group to assess the air transport services of Kokkola, Joensuu, Kajaani, Jyväskylä and Kemi and how to ensure the services during the coronavirus pandemic. The term of the working group ended on 30 September 2020.
The group was chaired by State Secretary Pilvi Torsti. Director General Olli-Pekka Rantala acted as the vice chair.
The group members were Sami Laakkonen, Public Relations Manager from the Regional Council of North Karelia, CEO Ari Hiltunen from the Central Finland Chamber of Commerce, Development Director Risto Hämäläinen from the City of Kajaani, Regional Director Sari Moisanen from the Sea Lapland Development Centre and Development Director Jonne Sandberg from the City of Kokkola.
What are the next steps?
The decision on the government support will be made in connection with the 2021 budgetary procedure. After that, the Transport and Communications Agency as the competent authority will launch the procurement process for air transport services.
The procurement of transport services would require that routes between the regional airports and Helsinki-Vantaa airport be subjected to a public service obligation and that the requirements of the EU Air Services Regulation are met. In the procurement, the customer needs of the region and connecting flights from the Helsinki-Vantaa airport should be taken into account.
Pilvi Torsti, State Secretary, tel. +358 40 719 1206
Olli-Pekka Rantala, Director General, tel. +358 50 344 3400
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