Role of Air Cargo and Road Feeder Services for Regional Airports – Case Studies from the Baltic Sea Region

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Although airports play an important role the global and European economies, according to the new guidelines of the EU Commission on the new state aid rules for a competitive aviation industry (EC, 2014), it will be more difficult for unprofitable airports, to get financial public subsidies in the future. The Commission noted that the majority of regional airports experience severe problems to cover their operative costs, resulting from among other things from overlapping of airports’ catchment areas. The main objective of the above mentioned measures is not to close the regional airports, but to motivate them to operate on cost efficient, profitable and more flexible basis, stating however that and that the most inefficient airports will be still closed. In order face upcoming challenges, the regional airports shall reconsider their future development plans. Traditionally, the airports including small and regional airports focus on the passenger traffic and thus, the possible benefits and opportunities of the air cargo market are totally underestimated or even completely ignored. Most regional airports in the Baltic Sea region act totally isolated and do not have a clear picture of the current situation on the international air cargo market today, its future perspectives and sustainable development plans remain basically hidden. There are some examples when trying to meet the market demand, the regional airports have made huge, but unfortunately unjustified investments, e.g. improving airport infrastructure, runways, etc. However, the airports’ infrastructural investments alone cannot fulfil the expected “remedy” role for the airports’ sustainability. This paper aims at investigating the positioning and the role of the regional airports in the current hub-and-spoke network, focusing on the relevance and potential of the air cargo sector for the regional airports development. The optional freight value proposition for the development of the regional airports and their possible participation in the air cargo market as a supplement instrument to generate additional revenue also by means of so-called “air trucking” services will be presented and discussed.

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