This week Simple Flying is in Riga to report on airBaltic. It would have been rude not to have flown to the Latvian capital with anybody else. As such, we seized the opportunity to fly business class on one of airBaltic’s Boeing 737s before they are retired this fall.
The check-in process was simple, yet slightly annoying online. After confirming my details, I was provided with a PDF boarding pass. I was also able to add a passbook boarding pass to my phone, however, this involved downloading the pass to my Mac then sharing it with my iPhone.
Things became slightly more confusing upon arrival at Gatwick Airport. There was one agent handling check-in for the airBaltic flight to Riga. It appeared as though there was only one queue, which I joined. There were five people in front of me who took around 10-15 minutes to be processed. Once I reached the front of the queue, the check-in agent informed me that I could’ve skipped the queue and issued me with a paper boarding pass. At check-in, I was also handed an invitation to the No. 1 lounge at Gatwick Airport.
Security and lounge
Business-class passengers get a range of benefits at London’s Gatwick Airport. This starts with the security process. While not advertised by the airline, the check-in agent informed me that I was able to use the fast track security lane. All in all, it took me just five minutes to clear security, with no real queue involved.
Once through security, airBaltic’s business class passengers are able to take advantage of the No. 1 lounge. While hidden away and hard to find, the lounge was a gem. Upon entry, passengers are provided with a menu. This provides one item of food (additional food comes at a cost). I opted for the avocado and poached egg on toast. This was accompanied by an excellent view of the South Terminal apron at Gatwick.
At London Gatwick, airBaltic uses a gate with a jetway. Business-class passengers are the first to board the aircraft behind those needing special assistance such as the four unaccompanied minors on the flight. Given the small number of business class passengers, there was no need to rush to the front of the queue.
The seat was rather comfy. Row one is technically classified as an emergency exit row on the Boeing 737, although it has a bulkhead in front of it. There are three seats on either side of the aisle, however, the middle seat folds down to make a table for drinks. Overall, a tiny bit more legroom would have been nice, as my feet naturally wanted to rest where the bulkhead was. That being said, there was much more legroom than a typical economy seat would have.
The airBaltic business cabin had a slightly odd layout. The curtain dividing business and economy was placed in between rows three and four. However, there were only three business class passengers, all sitting in row one. Row two was left empty, and row three was used for economy passengers.
The in-flight service on board the aircraft was amazing. As there were only three passengers in business class, the service was incredibly personal. As I sat down in my seat I was offered a glass of orange juice. Once were got airborne I had another glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee.
Then came the meal service and airBaltic did not disappoint. In fact, the meal was one of the best I have eaten on board an aircraft. The starter was Fetaki cheese with a very thin slice of cucumber and tomatoes. This was followed by pancakes with smoked beef and Mimolette cheese. Finally, dessert consisted of natural yogurt. Additionally, I was handed a whole bread basket, from which I took a croissant which was warm and soft.
The flight overall
Overall the flight was rather pleasant, however, we saw a total delay of around an hour arriving at our destination. This was due to things out of the airline’s control. The outbound Boeing 737 flight to London was delayed due to fog at the airport. Our flight to Riga was then further delayed as the airline had to offload checked baggage that belonged to absent passengers.
However, I wasn’t in a rush and I don’t think that the delay is necessarily representative of airBaltic who holds the title of the most punctual airline in Europe. Given the experience, I can’t wait to see how the Airbus A220 stacks up on Thursday.
Simple Flying flew to Riga as guests of airBaltic.
Have you flown in business class on airBaltic? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments.