New agreement will increase competition over flight routes between Finland and Russia
New carriers given possibility to fly Russian tourists to Finland
Finland and Russia have entered into an agreement with regard to freeing air traffic. The agreement signed on Monday simplifies the opening of new flight routes between the two countries.
This signing of the deal also released Finland from the threat of being dragged to the European Court of Justice. In the European Commission’s view the old-style bilateral contract between Finland and Russia was in breach of EU laws.
“We are elated that the matter has been brought to a positive conclusion”, Minister of Transport Merja Kyllönen (Left Alliance) said in Moscow on Tuesday.
The air transport agreement between Finland and Russia has only allowed flights by national carriers, in other words in Finland’s case only by Finnair. The agreement made it a condition that such an airline sign a commercial deal with a Russian carrier.
The European Court of Justice considered the agreement problematic already in 2002, but only last year the Commission took more robust measures to pursue the matter. It began an infringement procedure against Finland and four other member states.
By the change to the protocols signed by Kyllönen and Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, the concept of “national carrier” is removed from the agreement.
In the future, airlines that operate from Finland but are not Finnish-owned, such as Blue1, can also open flight routes to Russia.
Also in the future a flight authorisation is required for any new route, but nonetheless Kyllönen expects increased diversity in the forthcoming connections.
“I believe that in the future this will benefit the consumers”, Kyllönen says.
For one, with the present connections it is virtually impossible for Finnish businessmen to do a day business trip to Moscow and return to Helsinki for the night.
The Finns also expect the new contract to facilitate and increase tourism. The new agreement makes it easier, for example, to open air routes from Russia to Kajaani (for the Vuokatti resort) and Kittilä (for Levi and Ylläs) during the ski season.
Under the old agreement only two to three carriers had such a possibility.
The Russian tourists are already of vital importance to many Finnish operators in the tourism field.
Last year Finland granted nearly a million visas to Russian tourists.
'The majority of them were multiple-entry visas. This year the number of Russian visitors is expected to reach 1.2 million.
The new contract also clarifies and tightens the practices related to the technical inspection of the aircraft.
In the view of Kyllönen this will improve air traffic safety.
According to the Minister, Finland aims to ratify the agreement as quickly as possible.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Number of flights from Finland to Moscow to double (23.11.2007)
Tourism from Russia has become a billion-euro business (27.9.2011)