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Can subsidised flights to regional airports change from flop to top? Expert: “The remedy already exists

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Can subsidised flights to regional airports change from flop to top? Expert: “The remedy already exists”

State-subsidised flights to regional airports hold the questionable honour of the ‘Most useless item of the year’ in Finland. Roope Kekäläinen, CEO of the air travel platform LYGG, argues that a complete turnabout that would make regional flights the ‘Most useful item of the year’ is possible. This would require changing the current system from producer-driven to customer-driven, making demand-based travel profitable on market terms, for example, by optimising aircraft sizes.

“First of all, we should question whether the title of the ‘Most useless item of the year’ is justified or even fair. The greatest criticism towards regional flights is because these connections are being artificially kept alive with taxpayers’ money. However, we must secure regional accessibility. The goal is right, but the way of implementing it is not – or more accurately, the method of implementation is just as right as the narrow-minded system currently permits. After all, it is not the fault of airline operators, meaning the producers, if the state and the cities are prepared to pay millions to fly empty aircrafts”, Kekäläinen says.

“But is it right that taxpayers have to pay the bill even if the flights are empty? No, and it doesn’t’ need be like this. We already have the means to turn regional flights from useless to useful; we should make the routes profitable on market terms. We should never fly unnecessarily.”

No more empty flights

According to Kekäläinen, the key lies in changing the implementation model for regional flights from producer-driven to customer-driven. This is achieved through aircraft capacity optimisation and customer-driven service provision.

“The problem with the current system is that we subsidise empty flights. Ideally, the system would work in such a way that if there are no passengers on board, there is no flight. This is not possible with the current system, because large airlines simply do not have sufficiently small aircrafts and they are not flexible enough. With LYGG’s model, this would be possible, because we are not an airline operating on need-based, and we use the right-sized aircrafts. Our operating model will also enable hybrid aircrafts in the future, opening up radically new short-haul flight opportunities. Our ‘Uber of the skies’ thinking means that in just four years, a business passenger could go to a parking lot or a bus stop to wait for a 14-seater aircraft that only needs 100 metres of road to take off and land,” Kekäläinen explains.

Local airports are needed

Kekäläinen notes that the imperfection of the current system has created an impression that local airports are unnecessary. However, quite the opposite is true.

“The general trend in the aviation industry has been to focus travel between hubs, driven by efficiency thinking and large passenger volumes. The downside is that for major operators, regional connections have become a burden that is caused by their ownership base. They are a political and strategic duty that just has to be fulfilled somehow.”

“Things should be seen from the perspective that business travel is always primarily driven by the need to move physically from one place to another. It is travel that happens anyway, and in this context, local airports are really important. Where others see challenges, we see opportunities: the triangular route we opened in March between Helsinki, Örebro and Linköping is a prime example of how regional business travel can be made profitable, more environmentally friendly, and truly beneficial for the customer.”

More information

Heidi Koivisto, Communications Manager, LYGG
+358 50 389 2863, heidi.koivisto@lygg.com