Bernie Baldwin

The fundamentals underpinning sustained air transport demand are as powerful as ever.

Having to get through one disruptive external event such as a pandemic is really tough. Having another one start just as you’re coming to the end of the first is a huge challenge. And it’s arguably even greater when you’re relatively new in the role of leading the company.

Such is the position in which Lappeenranta Airport CEO, Jukka Himanen, finds himself, having taken over from Eija Joro on 1 January 2022. He remains positive about the future of the airport, which serves Finland’s beautiful lake district. “Even with travel restrictions, people have wanted to come to the lakes and through the winter we’ve had a lot of European passengers from Germany, Italy and Budapest in particular,” he reports.

The major loss has been from Russia. The border between the two countries is a little less than 30 km away and before the Covid pandemic, there would be around 4,000 daily crossings, many of which used the airport. Also, the ability to take day trips to St Petersburg was an extra reason why many people visited the lake district. Himanen and his team were looking forward to the border re-opening after the pandemic, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put paid to that prospect for the foreseeable future.

Himanen, though, says CONNECT 2002 has helped having “lived on Teams” for so long. Getting face-to-face once more with many airlines and other airports “has been very successful”, he reports. At present, Ryanair is still the scheduled service provider with five destinations, but there is also some general and business aviation plus some military operations keeping the airport busy.