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When Estonian Air was ordered by the European Commission to pay back more than €85 million of illegal state aid in November 2015, its government owner was immediately resigned to the need to shut down the underperforming flag-carrier.
Had the Commission ruled differently, Tallink, Estonia’s main ferry operator, was waiting in the wings as an investor. But there was no prospect of privatising the airline once the EU had saddled it with such huge debts.
Fortunately for Estonian travellers, the government anticipated the ruling and had already set up a new flag-carrier by the time of the Commission’s decision. This contingency planning allowed the new company, Nordic Aviation Group, to launch operations on the very same day that Estonian Air was grounded – initially as a virtual airline under contract with Slovenia’s Adria Airways.
It has taken just two years for the new flag-carrier, operating as Nordica, to become an independent company with its own Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), a fleet of 18 aircraft and a positive financial outlook...