The Baltic Connection

By Shayan Shakeel 3 September 2017
The Baltic Connection

Once a prospective target for Etihad’s European airline equity spree in struggling airlines, Latvia’s Air Baltic has been back in the black since 2013–the same year it first partnered on a codeshare with the Abu Dhabi-based airline.

This year, Air Baltic has renewed its codeshare agreement between Abu Dhabi and the Latvian capital, Riga, to commence on October 29. “Codeshare agreements are renewed each season,” says Air Baltic CEO, Martin Gauss, “and this is a great time to go back to the agreement.”

The Abu Dhabi-Riga route will be served four times a week with airBaltic’s 145-seat Bombardier CS300 aircraft, which might prove to be a game changer for the airline. At approximately 6.5 hours, the route is the longest to be operated by a CS300 and will allow Air Baltic to tap into markets on Etihad’s extended network.

As the launch customer of the Canadian manufacturer’s aircraft, Air Baltic plans to replace its ageing Boeing 737’s with an additional six CS300 in 2017. It currently has two of the aircraft, and intends to receive 20 by 2019.

“It has a longer range, is fuel efficient and has a great cabin experience. The CS300 has given us the range to fly to AUH non-stop to Abu Dhabi. And we will also be able to serve all of Europe with the aircraft,” says Gauss

The aircraft by Bombardier is central to Gauss’ 2021 plan to expand the airline’s books, reach and revenue. For the past few years, the Latvian government has been keen to privatise the airline while retaining a portion of its stake, a prospect which was hard to achieve when the airline’s sustainability was in doubt.

But with performance on an upward curve, “we want to be able to show potential investors that the airline is the right one to invest in,” says Gauss. “And flying to Abu Dhabi will allow us to tap into essential new markets.”

Data from Sabre, shared with RoutesOnline shows traffic between Abu Dhabi and Riga maxed out around 8,000 passengers the last time the codeshare was operated between the two cities four years ago. Since then, the UAE and Latvia have actively engaged in boosting economic cooperation; Latvia opened an embassy in the country in 2015, and the UAE signed an agreement to explore ways to trade with the Baltic country last year.

“The UAE is one of Latvia’s main trading partners, and air traffic between the two counties has much room to grow,” says Gauss. “So we’re looking forward to a long partnership.”

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