The conversation between M. Skuodis and the International Air Transport Association: emphasis on the post-pandemic recovery of aviation and the forced landing of the aircraft in Belarus


2021 06 09

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At a remote meeting with the leaders of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Minister of Transport and Communications Marius Skuodis emphasised the issues for Europe and the Northern and Baltic Regions, such as the recovery of aviation after the COVID-19 pandemic and sustainability, as well as the challenges to civil aviation security after the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Belarus.


According to IATA’s Regional Vice-President for Europe Rafael Schvartzman, civil aviation has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic globally, especially in Europe; therefore, unified and coordinated efforts by the European countries are important in order to revive this sector and to build a common future. Schvartzman emphasised the need for Europe to work together and to strengthen the idea of a Single European Sky. The IATA association, having observed and assessed the situation of aviation in Lithuania and its importance to the country’s economy, suggests close cooperation in search for the best solutions to revive this sector.


“In the short term, we will not only aim to restore the pre-pandemic number of flights, but also improve direct air communication with the European centres, which are important to the economy of Lithuania. As early as in 2026, the communication in the Baltic Region will be transformed by the nearly-completed European gauge railway Rail Baltica, which will ensure connections between the airports of Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania. We are starting to prepare Aviation Development Guidelines 2030, so, we would benefit from the advice of IATA regarding the development of the aviation sector’s future in the country,” said Minister of Transport and Communications M. Skuodis.


Due to the pandemic, the number of passengers in Lithuanian airports in 2020 has reduced by 72 %, as compared to 2019. The statistics of the first quarter of this year show an even higher decline of 88 %, as compared to the same period in 2019. This year, Lithuania aims to increase air transport availability at least twice by restoring no less than 50 % of the pre-pandemic numbers and to serve at least 2.7 million passengers.


By 2024, during the intermediate period, it is planned to improve the infrastructure of the country’s airports, to increase their capacities for passengers and freight, as well as to develop Lithuania’s accessibility by air transport, in cooperation with airlines and social partners. International audits are planned to allow air carriers registered in Lithuania to organise flights to the USA.


The incident of 23 May, when a Ryanair passenger plane was forcibly landed in Belarus, which has affected the aviation sector, was also discussed at the meeting. The IATA representative called this situation “an intolerable incident, which poses a great concern to the whole aviation community”. IATA demands a thorough investigation of this incident to find out its cause and to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in the future.