Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport or Ülemiste Airport (IATA: TLL, ICAO: EETN; Estonian: Lennart Meri Tallinna lennujaam) is the largest airport in Estonia and home base of the national airline Estonian Air. Tallinn Airport is open to both domestic and international flights. It is located approximately 4 kilometers from the centre of Tallinn on the eastern shore of Lake Ülemiste.
The airport has a single asphalt-concrete runway that is 3070 meters long and 45 meters wide (large enough to handle wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 747), five taxiways and fourteen terminal gates.
The airport has also seen military use as an interceptor aircraft base. It was home to 384 IAP (384th Interceptor Aircraft Regiment) which flew MiG-23P aircraft.
Since March 29, 2009 the airport is officially known as Lennart Meri Tallinn International Airport, in honour of the late Estonian diplomat and former president Lennart Meri.
Prior to the establishment of the present airport in Ülemiste area, Lasnamäe Airfield was the primary airport of Tallinn, serving as a base for Aeronaut airline. After Aeronaut went bankrupt in 1928, air service was continued by Deruluft, which used Nehatu instead, 12 kilometres from the centre of Tallinn. The first seaplane harbour on the shores of Lake Ülemiste was built 1928 to 1929 in order to serve Finnish seaplanes. The use of this harbour ended in World War II. On 26 March 1929 Riigikogu passed an expropriation act in order to establish a public airport. 10 ha of land was expropriated from Dvigatel joint-stock company and another 22 ha was expropriated from descendants of Vagner. 10 million sents were paid to land-owners as indemnity. Land leveling and renovation works took another 5 million sents. The building of Tallinn Airport started in 1932, and the airport was opened officially on 20 September 1936, although it had been operational a good while before the official opening. The total cost of the project, including the cost of building flight hangars, was 25 million sents. The runways of the first stage were about 40 metres wide and 300 metres long. As they were arranged in a form of a triangle, they allowed take-offs and landings in six directions. Before World War II, Tallinn Airport had regular connections to abroad by at least Aerotransport (now part of the SAS Group), Deutsche Luft Hansa, LOT and the Finnish company Aero (now Finnair).
Between 1945 and 1989, Aeroflot was the only airline that served Tallinn Airport.
Regular flights with jet aircraft began on 2 October 1962 with a maiden passenger flight from Moscow for then newest Soviet airliner Tu-124. A new terminal building was built in the late 1970s and the runway was also lengthened then. The first foreign airline since World War II to operate regular flights from Tallinn was SAS in the autumn of 1989.
The construction works of the first cargo terminal (Cargo 1), located in the middle of future cargo area on the north side of the airport, were carried out from September 1997 until March 1998. The passenger terminal building was completely modernised in 1999, increasing its capacity to 1.4 million passengers per year and after that greatly expanded in 2008. The growing demand for extra space for cargo operations, created a situation were there was need for cargo terminal expansion, Cargo 2. In order to meet the growing demand for new cargo facilities at Tallinn Airport, the number of cargo terminals was later expanded to four. In year 2012 a new aircraft maintenance hangar was opened and a number of passengers passed two million mark the first time in the history of the airport. On 11 January 2013 the airport was accepted into Airport Carbon Accreditation emission managing and reduction programme by ACI. The year 2013 saw an introduction of an automatic border control system and a start of construction of a new business aviation hangar complex.
The airport underwent a large expansion project between January 2006 and September 2008. The terminal was expanded in three directions, resulting in 18 new gates, separate lounges for Schengen and non-Schengen passengers, 10 new check-in desks and a new restaurant and cafes. Due to the gallery that connects all the gates and was constructed in the middle of the terminal building the terminal became T-shaped. The projecting terminal section enables a two-level traffic for international passengers. The renewed terminal has nine passenger bridges. The extensions constructed at the ends of the terminal building became additional rooms for registering for the flights and for delivering arriving luggage. Outside the terminal, the apron was refurbished and expanded and a new taxiway was added. The new terminal allows the airport to handle twice as many passengers as it could handle before.
After the death of former president of Estonia Lennart Meri on 14 March 2006, journalist Argo Ideon from Eesti Ekspress proposed to honor the president’s memory by naming Tallinn Airport after him – “Tallinna Lennart Meri Rahvusvaheline Lennujaam” (Lennart Meri International Airport), drawing parallels with JFK Airport, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, Istanbul-Atatürk Airport etc. Ideon’s article also mentioned the fact that Meri himself had shown concern for the condition of the then Soviet-era construction (in one memorable case Meri, having arrived from Japan, led the group of journalists that were expecting him, to the airport’s toilets to do the interview there, in order to point out the shoddy condition of the facilities).
The name change was discussed at a board meeting on 29 March 2006, and on the opening of the new terminal on 19 September 2008, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip officially announced the renaming would take place in March 2009
Baltic Sea cruise turnarounds
In 2011 a new project of cruise turnarounds was launched in cooperation with Tallinn Passenger Port and Happy Cruises. More than 7,000 Spanish passengers travelled that year on charter flights to and from Tallinn Airport. As the airport is located only 5 km from the city center cruise quay, transfer time from airport to cruise ship is under an hour.
In 2012 Pullmantur Air started its charter operations from Madrid-Barajas Airport with three Airbus 321s and two to three Boeing 747s. During the summer 2012 about 16,000 tourists were transferred. The company will continue turnarounds in 2013 as well as there will be one partial turnaround operation for the cruise ship MS Deutschland operated by Peter Deilmann Cruises.
Future expansion plans
According to Erik Sakkov, board member of Tallinn Airport, the future plans include expanding the runway by 600–700 metres to serve regular long-haul flights, also building of a brand-new taxiway, new storage facilities, a new point-to-point terminal and expansion of the existing passenger terminal, so it can serve arriving and departing passengers on two different levels. On 21 February 2013 the environmental impact assessment of the airport development project started. The project includes the runway lengthening by 720 metres, installation of the ILS Category II equipment, also lengthening of the existing northern taxiway till the end of the expanded runway, constructing of a whole new taxiway and a new apron area on the southern side of the airport, installation of the new perimeter security systems and constructing of an engine test facility and dedicated snow storage and de-icing areas. Among other benefits the extension would enable planes to fly higher above the city of Tallinn by moving threshold of the runway further from Lake Ülemiste, thus reducing noise level. The public discussion of the runway extension environmental effects evaluation report will take place on December 16 2013 and the construction work to extend the runway should start in 2015. On 12 June 2013 the City Administration of Tallinn approved a detailed planning for a 0.91 ha land plot, on which a new 4,430 m2 (47,680 sq ft) maintenance hangar is going to be built.
In coming years the Airport Museum will be established on the grounds of the airport. It would be dedicated to the history of development of Estonian airports. The museum will be located in a small building near the terminal, also a relatively large area nearby will be transformed into open-air exhibition. Two ancient cult stones, which are necessary to move during the expansion of the runway, will be transferred to that exhibition. The whole museum plot will be separated from the airfield. The museum will have a direct access from E263 motorway (shares the same route with Estonian main road 2).
There are one passenger terminal and four cargo terminals at the airport. As the airport’s current facilities could not serve more than 2.5 million passengers per year and the number of passengers is rapidly growing (+38.2% in year 2011), the new terminal for discount airlines will be built.
There is a number of vendors in the terminal building, including three restaurants, three coffee shops, a duty free shop, cigar lounge, book store, travel shop, gift shop etc.
Estonian EXPO Center year-round permanent exhibition is located near the Gate 3, acting as a live advertising space where promotion representatives introduce the companies taking part in the exhibition and help finding cooperation partners in particular fields of business. The center was opened on 22 July 2010. VKG has opened an oil shale themed exposition at Gate 4 on 9 January 2013, showing the history and development of Estonian oil shale industry. The Estonian Tourist Board has opened a brand new “Visit Estonia“ themed exposition at Gate 5 on 2 October 2013. The gate is divided into three parts: a children’s territory with a Lotte-themed playhouse, an interactive, informative waiting area decorated with Estonian national patterns and a bridge from the gate to the airplane that introduces travellers to Estonian nature.
Passenger facilities provided include: post office, telephone services, Skype phone booth, free Internet kiosks, free wireless Internet access, left luggage storage, clothes storage service and baggage wrapping service. Travel agencies, currency exchange, cash machines (ATM) and porter services are also available. Travellers visiting Latvia, Lithuania and Norway, have a possibility to rent a tablet computer. A lending library was open on 9 May 2013 in a special area by Gate 1. All books were donated by public including Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the First Lady of Estonia Evelin Ilves. The library will have books in ten different languages, the majority being in Estonian, Russian and English. There will also be a selection of children’s books. On 16 August 2013 Tallinn Airport unveiled a gallery and started exhibiting artists’ work in the Passenger Terminal. The gallery of rotating exhibitions on the 1st floor of the Passenger Terminal is open to all arriving and departing passengers as well as those seeing them off or meeting them.
There are three bus stops at the terminal, which are located on level 0 in front of the arrivals area.
On 1 September 2013 the airport opened an automatic border control system, that should accelerate procedures for passengers travelling out of the Schengen area. The fully automated border crossing system consists of two automated gates and six registering kiosks.
Nordea Lounge services business class passengers of Aeroflot, Air Baltic, Estonian Air, Finnair, Flybe, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Rossiya Airlines, SAS and UTAir, as well as Priority Pass, Airport Angel (including owners of the Diners Club card) and members of the Metropolis loyalty programme. Nordea Lounge is situated in the closed area of the passenger terminal. Standard passengers can also buy a single entrance ticket to Nordea Lounge, if there are free seats. Previously business passengers were serviced by Linda Lounge, which was located in the closed area of the passenger terminal next to gate 7.
Additional Tallinn Airport GH check-in terminal is located at the Radisson Blu Hotel Tallinn. Travellers can check in online and print boarding cards directly from the lobby. The system allows to check in 24 hours before departure and choose own specific seat.
Point-to-point terminal (Terminal 2)
On 12 April 2012 Tallinn Airport announced, that it will build next year a new five-berth terminal for low-cost airlines, which will be easily removable and extendable. The new terminal would be intended for low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian that do not want to pay that much to the airport and do not need many airport services.
The new terminal is intended for the service of one million passengers and the space liberated from low-cost airlines would pass into the disposition of Estonian Air and other traditional airlines, such as Lufthansa, SAS, LOT and Finnair.
Business aviation hangar complex
On 20 March 2013 the airport authorities announced a public procurement for constructing a new hangar complex. The cornerstone of the new complex was laid on 27 September 2013. It will have a surface area of 5,219 m2 (56,180 sq ft), will be located right next to the existing General Aviation Terminal and expected to service clients in a 3,000 kilometer radius. The complex is intended for accommodating a total of eleven planes, ten of them would be mid-size business jets and one would be a large corporate aircraft. It will consist of five hangars: the Hangar 1 for the large aircraft (such as Boeing 737, Airbus A318 or Airbus A319), hangars 2 to 5 will be intended for smaller business jets (Bombardier Challenger 605, Learjet 60). The whole complex is scheduled to open in April 2014 and its operator will be Panaviatic, which is going to expand its business jet operations from Tallinn Airport. Apart from providing hangarage for business jets, the new complex will also offer MRO services by Panaviatic’s subsidiary AS Panaviatic Maintenance.
Tallinn Airport has 4 cargo terminals with total warehouse space of ca 5000 m². The size of warehouse in Cargo 1 is 3601m² and 2066m² are dedicated for the office area. Cargo terminal is operated by different operators (including integrators) and Tallinn Airport Ltd. only acts as a lessor. The size of Cargo 2 warehouse is 1255m² and 758m² are dedicated for office space. Cargo 2 is operated by TNT Express Worldwide. Other logistics operators include DHL, UPS and FedEx.
Ground handling services are handled by Tallinn Airport GH. In year 2010, Finnair named Tallinn Airport GH as the most punctual ground handling service provider for its planes in Europe and the third best in the world.
Aircraft maintenance services
Air Maintenance Estonia has its facilities and headquarters on the airport property. On 6 September 2012 the company opened a new 5,000 m2 (53,820 sq ft) column-free three-bay hangar for Base Maintenance works of narrow-body aircraft, such as Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. In total AME has three main Base Maintenance lines, and two additional lines for lighter checks and modification works. With the addition of the new hangar, the maximum annual line maintenance capacity of the company boosted to 72 aircraft from the present 24. AME said the new hangar will allow it carry out a planned doubling of its workforce.
AS Panaviatic Maintenance is a Part 145 EASA-compliant subsidiary of Panaviatic, which will offer its services for business aviation customers.
Scheduled airlines and destinations
Total passengers using the airport has increased on average by 14.2% annually since 1998. Passenger data reflects international and domestic flights combined, share of domestic flights compared to international flights was marginal. Passenger and cargo numbers exclude direct transit.
Tallinn Airport handled 1,811,536 passengers in 2008 which is 4.8% more than in 2007.
Also 41,654 aircraft movements (7% growth) and 41,867 tonnes of mail and freight (84% growth compared to 2007) were handled in 2008.
83% of passengers were flying on scheduled flights, 17% on non-scheduled flights. The most popular holiday destinations proved to be resorts in Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Greece, whilst furthest long-haul charter destinations included India and Thailand.
The most popular scheduled destinations were Helsinki, London, Copenhagen and Oslo. Two new destinations—Minsk and Munich were introduced in 2008, as well as a seasonal route to Rome (by Estonian Air).
The busiest days were 27 June, when 7103 passengers passed through the airport's premises and 6 June when 172 aircraft movements (86 flights) were handled. The biggest aircraft served at Tallinn Airport, Boeing 747-400, weighed 413 tonnes, while the smallest ultralight had the maximum take-off weight of just 270 kg (600 lb). The furthest destination was San Jose in US California, 8822 km (5483 miles) from Tallinn. 216 different airlines, flying to/from 372 destinations in the world used the services of Tallinn Airport.
Incidents and accidents
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