Air Transport World

Nice niche in Tallinn: tiny Estonian Air keeps its ambitions in check and its costs low. .(Company Profile)

Even in the airline industry, appearances can be deceiving. Observe tiny but profitable Estonian Air: Who would expect an airline to develop a niche market successfully from--of all places--Estonia, population 1.4 million? Smallest of the three Baltic republics on the fringes of Nordic northern Europe, its capital, Tallinn, is just 40 ml. south of Helsinki across the Gulf of Finland. Yet Estonian has managed to post profits in each of the past two years, including 39.2 million kroons ($2.7 million) last year, more than double the 15 million kroons earned in 2001.

"There definitely is a market here, but we have to be extremely flexible with fleer planning in such a small market to achieve any growth," declares Estonian Air President Erki Urva, who last year became the first Esronian to head the carrier; top executives previously were Danes appointed by its largest shareholder, Maersk Air A/S of the A.P. Moeller Group of Denmark. Urva underlines that he "strongly believes a small airline like Estonian can be more profitable [than some larger carriers]. We have fewer nonproductive staff, and minimal internal bureaucracy supports fast decision-making. …

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