Fast 5: How Kaunas Airport Adjusted MRO During COVID-19 Times

Karolis Matulaitis, director at Kaunas International Airport, talks to James Pozzi about the changes to the operation during the novel coronavirus pandemic and how it is meeting increased demand for aircraft parking services.

How has COVID-19 affected maintenance activities at the airport?

Currently, Kaunas Airport is the largest MRO center in the Baltic States, housing multiple MRO companies: KAMS (Ryanair Engineering), FL Technics, DOT, Aviabaltika and OS Technics.

While MRO activity typically lags slightly behind passenger traffic declines, we see that amid the pandemic when there are no passengers at the airport, maintenance activities are being performed, yet at a slower pace. For example, Ryanair typically ends its maintenance cycle before the start of summer travel season, however, this year aircraft still remain being maintained in the hangars. Also, while some other companies have decreased their levels of activity, such as FL Technics, DAT and Aviabaltika, we have a new company operating at the airport, OS Technics, which performs maintenance for cargo flights, whose number have exploded in past weeks. 

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the grounding of passenger flights, we’re seeing that our strategic decision to focus on MRO development was right. A number of flights continue to operate at Kaunas Airport solely due to maintenance work being done on those airplanes. Furthermore, several hundred people were able to maintain their job positions. 

Has demand for parked aircraft increased?

Kaunas Airport is one of many examples on how the global COVID-19 pandemic changed the demand for aircraft parking all around the world. We have approximately 30 aircraft parked on our apron, which is more than we have actual parking stands—24. Together with the Civil Aviation Administration of Lithuania, we have developed all the necessary processes and permits to fulfill the demand, and I think it is quite a success in terms of cooperation between the airport and the needs of airline companies. For example, we have started to park aircraft on a long-term basis on the taxiways, where cargo aircraft also offload cargo and so on. 

What kind of maintenance services are you seeing at the airport during fleet groundings?

We have been expecting to see more conservation processes happening, however some airlines, such as Ryanair, decided to keep their fleet and the crew current. This is being done with regular circular flights being performed around Kaunas Airport.

On the other hand, we see increased line maintenance activity, especially during the night, as well as maintenance work being performed on widebody aircraft as we have an unprecedented number of widebody cargo flights related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Every day you can see Airbus Airbus 330 and Boeing 737 freighter aircraft, while some other aircraft are coming less regularly—like A310s, 747s, A400, 787s and 777s. This is very exciting for the airport, as we typically do not have regular widebody traffic. All of this brings some additional maintenance work. 

Which airlines are parking or storing their aircraft in Kaunas?

There are several airlines that parked their aircraft in Kaunas. Starting with Ryanair, we also do have Eurowings and Swiss aircraft on the ground, which have been attracted by the successful partnership of Lufthansa Group and FL Technics. There are also aircraft from GetJet Airlines, Windrose, Danish Air Transport and KlasJet, among others.

Have you changed staffing arrangements as a result of coronavirus?

In these severely turbulent times, as we cope with the challenges of COVID-19, we have once again witnessed that the people of Lithuanian Airports—more than 600 of them—are our most valuable asset. We aim to keep all our people in their positions. As a result, from March 31 until May 31, all employees of Lithuanian airports in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga have reduced their weekly working hours and this will allow everyone to maintain their job positions.

James Pozzi

As Aviation Week's MRO Editor EMEA, James Pozzi covers the latest industry news from the European region and beyond. He also writes in-depth features on the commercial aftermarket for Inside MRO.