Despite COVID-19 decimating the aviation sector, Riga Airport is determined to maintain its strategic goal of becoming a Northern European air traffic hub.
Talking at a Riga Aviation Forum on Thursday 3 September, Laila Odina, Chairperson of the Airport Board, said: “This crisis has given us some extra time to prepare for new challenges. By investing in the development of state-of-the-art infrastructure solutions today, in the future it will be possible to organise more efficiently and reduce costs per serviced passenger or aircraft, which will boost the airport’s competitiveness both in terms of costs and environmental sustainability.”
A number of large-scale investment projects worth more than €15m have been implemented at Riga Airport over the summer months. These have included the reconstruction and upgrade of part of the runway and taxiways, the building of a helipad and new aircraft and helicopter stands. According to the airport, these will not only enable Riga Airport to increase its operational capacity and offer customers better services, but they will also make the airport more environmentally friendly, reducing CO2 emissions and saving resources.
Featuring underground hydrant systems and multi-category aircraft stands, the new cargo apron will start operating this autumn. Alongside the development of the cargo logistics centre, it will enable the airport to double the volume of cargo handled, reaching 60,000 tonnes each year. DHL, the international logistics company, has already started the construction of its regional parcel handling and sorting centre in the territory of the future RIX Cargo City. Up to 15,000 sq. m. of additional land is also ready for development for cargo handling and servicing warehouses.
Odina also pointed out that the airport continues to work on its passenger terminal project. “The airport is expected to restore the number of passengers served before the crisis in a few years. This is also confirmed by the development plans of airBaltic’s updated business plan,” she stated. “Insufficient airport capacity cannot be an obstacle to the implementation of these development plans in Riga,” she continued. She also highlighted that with new epidemiological safety requirements likely to persist in the long term the airport will need additional space to implement these standards without compromising existing capacity and service quality.
Underlining the airport’s commitment to seeking out sustainable solutions when planning for future development, Odina emphasised the possibility of attracting structural fund projects that will be available to Latvia in the next European Union budget planning period until 2027. She note that this EU funding should be used to purchase both sewage infrastructure and equipment that uses alternative fuels in its work, such as electric apron buses, specialised apron equipment and electric cars to be used on a daily basis to perform airport functions.
“If a company thinks about sustainability in all its aspects – environmental, social and economic – it becomes more efficient in processes and use of resources, acquires motivated and loyal staff and becomes more attractive to future employees. This improves the operating results and thus gives a direct benefit to the business,” she said.
Riga Airport has been participating in the International Global Reporting Sustainability Index Assessment since 2011 and for the second year in a row has the highest – platinum status.