Report on regional air services provides information for the government budget session
On 5 September 2023, the Government published a report on public transport procurements and public service obligations. It provides information on purchase of air transport services and on the impacts and future prospects of flight connections to support decision-making in the government budget session.
According to the Programme of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s Government, air transport services will be developed so that the whole of Finland can be reached from Helsinki within three hours. In line with the Government Programme, Finavia’s current airport network will be maintained. While air transport services within Finland will primarily be developed on market terms, flight connections important for security of supply, exports and tourism will be secured with outsourced services if necessary. The matter is to be examined in the autumn 2023 budget session.
The topics of the report include the situation in purchased air service connections and the trend in passenger numbers, accessibility and alternative connections, regulation, assessment of the opportunities offered by market-based transport services, and estimated appropriations required for possible purchases.
Coronavirus pandemic originally in the background of air transport purchases
On 24 August 2020, the Ministry of Transport and Communications appointed a working group to assess the need for air transport services between Helsinki Airport and the five regional airports of Kokkola, Joensuu, Kajaani, Jyväskylä and Kemi. The market-based air transport services had ceased and the operating environment for air traffic had deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The working group proposed that air transport from those five regional airports be supported for a short, six-month transition period. Since then, separate decisions have been issued to continue the support for the connections.
In 2021–2023, flights between Helsinki and the airports of Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kajaani, Kemi and Kokkola were supported by a total of over EUR 42 million. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the support has been based, in particular, on the accessibility of the regions and the needs of business life. The current support will continue until 28 April 2024. Decisions on whether or not the purchased services be continued must be made in the government budget session to leave enough time for the possible competitive tendering processes.
If the central government finances the flight connections in the future, the equal treatment of regions would be ensured by a uniform funding model for procurements. According to the report, the central government could, after the transition period, contribute 50% to transport services that support commuter traffic and enable a maximum of 10 return flights per week. The costs for a service level exceeding this would be paid in full by the region. The model would be close to the one currently used for purchasing air transport services to and from Savonlinna. For a city in question to participate in the funding, it would have to issue a decision of its own on the matter.
“Finland’s finances must be put in order. That is why air transport subsidies should also be assessed, taking into account the needs of security of supply, tourism and business life. Regions must also be treated equally,” says Minister of Transport and Communications Lulu Ranne.
The government budget session will take place on 19–20 September. According to the Government Programme, the procurement of air services to the regions will be discussed in the government budget session.
To serve as an information basis for updating the Transport 12 Plan, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has also commissioned a study on the alternatives and possibilities of organising airport operations in Finland. The report will be published in autumn 2023.
Inka Näkkäläjärvi, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 50 342 052, inka.nakkalajarvi(at)gov.fi
Päivi Jämsä, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 138, paivi.jamsa(at)gov.fi
Emil Asp, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 509 342498, emil.asp(at)gov.fi