“Without a doubt, last year was a period of the greatest challenges in the history of aviation. The pandemic will also affect this year’s results in aviation. However, studies show that demand for travel is very high, people’s desire and need to travel persist. This implies a projection of sufficiently rapid recovery, which, we sincerely hope, will exceed our predictions. Aviation, however, continues to experience endless challenges due to travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. And although there is a move towards standardization at a cross-border level, we will still have to settle many issues to make the travel process more convenient“, - says Aurimas Stikliūnas, Head of Aviation Services at Lithuanian Airports.
According to the expert, mass vaccination, which is currently being commenced in countries and lifting of travel restrictions at a cross-border level will be among of the key factors in the recovery of passenger aviation.
“Although many of the factors which determine the course of the situation in aviation are global, Lithuanian Airports, however, have already approved a very clear internal action plan which sets out what steps should be taken to ensure speedy and smooth return of passenger aviation. Currently, we can see that recovery may begin in the middle of the spring. Therefore, we are already actively preparing for it in all directions by involving a wide range of our partners”, - says A. Stikliūnas.
Results of the airports
Throughout 2020, 1.3 million passengers were served at Vilnius Airport (74% less), at Kaunas Airport – 369 thousand passengers (68% less), and at Palanga Airport – 124 thousand passengers (63% less).
Although the pandemic has significantly reduced the flow of passengers, the total number of different flight directions that were proposed during the previous year decreased relatively slightly at Lithuanian Airports - in 2020, passengers could choose from 72 flight directions (in 2019 - 92 flight directions).
According to the representatives of Lithuanian Airports, although different restrictions imposed in many countries to manage the pandemic made travel much more complicated in 2020, airlines struggled to maintain a large offer of seats so that they could provide passengers with as many travel opportunities as possible. Last year, the average aircraft occupancy rate (ratio of seats offered to the market and of whose actually occupied) amounted to 55%. This shows that most airlines are making a huge effort to speed up recovery of passenger aviation.
An increase in demand to transport international cargo by air, increased demand for e-commerce and medical cargo resulted in growth of total cargo flow at Lithuanian airports: last year, the number of cargoes increased by 16% and amounted to nearly 20 thousand tons. The biggest growth was recorded at Kaunas Airport (freight traffic growth by 70%).
Global trends in 2021
According to the Head of Aviation Services at Lithuanian Airports, it is difficult to say yet which precisely requirements will become universal at a cross-border level. However, it can already be stated with certainty that travel process will be supplemented by certain requirements.
“It is likely that some security requirements that are currently applied at airports and on board of aircrafts will remain for a longer time. Such requirements are likely to be mandatory wearing of masks at the airport and on board of aircraft, possession of a certificate attesting to the fact of negative results of blood for Covid-19, vaccination or attesting to the fact that the passenger has a history of Covid-19 disease. The existing changes to the infrastructure of airports also show that some of the requirements will remain in place for longer. In this case, Lithuanian airports are not an exception - many projects to adapt to new travel needs have already taken place and are still taking place in the airports”, - says A. Stikliūnas.
According to the expert, there is already talk in the aviation market and in its regulatory bodies of a certain idea of a “travel passport” that contains the necessary information about the traveller. However, a standardized solution is still on the way, discussions have not been finalised yet. It is therefore too early to say that such a solution will really become a daily routine for travellers.