The Finnish national carrier, Finnair, plans to launch regular flights between Tartu, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland on 31 March 2024.
Finnair previously submitted a bid in the public tender for the operation of the Tartu-Helsinki route. In return for fulfilling the public service obligation, Finnair will receive compensation from the Tartu city government totalling just over EUR 3,2 million for regular flights until the end of 2027.
Finnair would operate the route with a 72-seater ATR aircraft of its subcontractor Nordic Regional Airlines.
The Tartu-Helsinki route is subject to a public service obligation for a period of four years (until the end of 2027), during which the route must be operated on the basis of a timetable providing for 12 weekly flights from Tartu to Helsinki and vice versa. The aircraft used for the flights must have at least 60 seats.
Tartu Airport is located 5.9 nautical miles south-southwest of Tartu, the second largest city in Estonia. It is also known as Ülenurme Airport due to its proximity to the village of Ülenurme.
The airport was opened on 15 May 1946. A new terminal building was built in 1981, when the runway and taxiway were also modernised. In 2010, more than 23,000 passengers used Tartu Airport, but regular commercial passenger flights were discontinued in November 2022. In fact, Finnair was the last airline to operate flights to and from Tartu.
Flight subsidies the only option
Following the termination of air services in 2022, Tartu began to analyse the possible legal conditions for organising and continuing to support flights from the city. Consultations with various air carriers have shown that no airline is willing to operate international flights from Tartu under the current market conditions.
Under these circumstances, in order to ensure the operation of international flights, it was possible to impose a public service obligation on the city for the most suitable international route and to subsidise flights from Tartu from the city budget.
Helsinki Airport was chosen as the most suitable destination on the basis of an economic study carried out beforehand.
Finnair is consistently ranked as one of the world’s safest airlines and is the sixth oldest airline in continuous operation. The airline has a fleet of 79 aircraft.
In 2024, Tartu will be one of the European Capitals of Culture.