Creating financial success at Lithuanian Airports

In this Q&A, Aurimas Abišala, the Head of Sales at Lithuanian Airports, outlines some of the commercial opportunities the airport is are looking to expand on pending the terminal redevelopments of Kaunas and Vilnius airports.

Would you please introduce yourself to our audience?

My name is Aurimas Abišala and I work at the Lithuanian Airports. We have three airports in Lithuania, and I oversee the sales team, which consists of eight people, and we do all the non-aviation activities such as parking, building lease, advertising, events, and similar activities.

What is your sales trajectory for Lithuanian Airports and do you have any KPIs to reach in 2024?

We expect to have about 20 million of euros in non-aviation revenue. That is quite a good growth compared to earlier years and to 2019, which is basically the baseline for all our activities.

With the new projects, we expect to have more of these spaces for people to breathe, to get ready, to get excited about the journey”

In 2024, we expect to have pretty similar numbers due to big reconstructions going on at both Vilnius and Kaunas, which will put some constraints on our parking capabilities. So, we will stay at pretty much the same levels and we expect good growth in the following year, 2025.

What are some of your business outlooks for the airports of Vilnius and Kaunas?

One of our airports, which is middle-sized airport in Kaunas, even the last year it’s already had more people than in 2019. And overall as a network we have about 95% regained passengers compared to 2018 so we are looking good. I mean, we’re expanding. Two of our airports (Kaunas and Vilnius airports) are undergoing construction projects, so we are expanding to have more people coming in and when we will expand then we will fill that place of course with some of the commercial spaces.

We expect to also see quite a good growth in our revenues in the future because we will have more capability to get serve more passengers.

CREDIT: Lithuanian Airports

Will the terminal expansions offer more commercial opportunity for the airports?

Of course, because currently there’s old structures. Some of our retail spots are dotted all around the airport. But when we do the reconstruction, we’ll be able to join those spaces to make it much more efficient and better for the passenger and for the operators. When you have a one dedicated big space where people can go through, it’s a very different feel.

We want our spaces to mirror each other so that when passengers go travel through one part to another, we want them to have one experience, one path, and to see everything we have to offer.

What are some market trends that you’ve noticed in passengers over the past year?

In Lithuania, we are definitely seeing a strong rebound of passengers compared to earlier years. One of the trends we’ve observed is that leisure travellers are coming back stronger and at this point, more so than the business travellers. Business travel is returning, though at slower pace. What are also seeing  the workcation trend, working from home, and greater mixing of the professional and personal life reflected in our airports.

Five years ago, our business lounge used to be full of people wearing suits, sitting and waiting for their meetings. Now it’s more people with families, children and so on. We are observing that people are using let’s say the higher level services, more of those, even when they’re not going on a professional trip. Or perhaps they’re mixing this professional trip with also a week of holiday or leisure travel.

When passengers go travel through one part to another, we want them to have one experience, one path”

Another trend that we see is that there is a bit of a plateau of spending in retail, I would say, and more spending in the food and beverage and experiences. A traveller might browse the duty-free shop and say, “I’m not sure if I want that bottle of champagne.” But then they go into the restaurant and order that bottle to drink with their friends and/or family.

Do you think it’s because people are offering them the service of waitressing that they’re more likely to purchase a champagne bottle?

Personally, I believe it’s that people want to start their holidays earlier and enjoy more of the experience. I also think the social media networks have helped to accelerate this trend because travellers want to show people that their having a good time.

People are buying more expensive things during their travel so I think that overall, it’s more about experiences and about things that you can share with people either in social streams or retelling later.

What are some commercial trends that you’ve noticed about the airports across Lithuania?

In Lithuania, we see passenger trends more strongly in commercial. We see very good increases in passenger spending in our food and beverage outlets. In Vilnius Airport in 2023, we opened a niche local jewellery shop. The pieces this shop sells are very expensive, and so we were a bit hesitant as to how successful it might be. However, this jewelry shop has proven us wrong to be hesitant. People are buying really expensive things. I’m not sure if it’s trend or if it’s a one-time thing, but people do have money to spend if they want it. It’s not only about spontaneous buying, we are seeing some big purchases.

What are some of the strategies you’ve put in place to help boost revenue for Lithuanian Airports?

Our long-term strategy is expansion of the terminals as we expand two out of three of our airports (Kaunas and Vilnius). They will both be doubling the passenger throughput and will offer more space for passengers, more places for them to relax after the security check. At present, we have constrained space, with travellers going straight into retail after the security check, which isn’t ideal.

With the new projects, we expect to have more of these spaces for people to breathe, to get ready, to get excited about the journey after the security check, before making their way to retail and we expect this will positively affect them.

For my final question, can you give us a 30 second pitch on why an airline should choose to fly into your airports rather than your competitors?

First of all, one of our airports is already exceeding 2019 passenger levels and we expect all others to catch up soon. Another other reason is that we are proud to have been chosen by the Lufthansa Group. We are one of not very many cities that all four of their airlines are flying through. It’s Austrian, Lufthansa, Swiss and Brussels Airlines, so we are very happy that they started flying this much this year.

About the author – Aurimas Abišala 

Abišala has been working in Lithuanian airports since 2016, when he joined as a sales manager. From 2022 Abišala had been promoted to the Head of Sales. Currently, he oversee all non-aviation sales (except the land lease) in Lithuanian Airport‘s network of three airports. This includes lease, parking, advertising, events, business lounge, fast track and VIP services. Abišala has experience in communication, marketing, B2B sales and project management.

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