airBaltic’s New A220 Route To Dubai Won’t Be The Type’s Longest Flight

airBaltic is to begin Riga to Dubai from September, nearly a decade after it last served the route with the Boeing 757. It’ll now be operated by the Airbus A220, the only type in its fleet, although it still won’t be the world’s longest A220 route this year. That crown belongs to a route between Reunion and Chennai.

airBaltic A220
Second time lucky for Dubai and airBaltic, which it last served in 2012. Photo: Getty Images.

airBaltic has announced that it’ll serve Dubai from its Riga hub, with the first flight departing on September 1st. Operating four-weekly, the schedule will be:

  • Riga to Dubai: leaving at 23:10 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, and arriving the next morning at 06:35
  • Dubai to Riga: departing at 08:05 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and arriving back at 13:50

The 2,684-mile service will be operated by airBaltic’s 145-seat Airbus A220-300s, which are the only aircraft in the airline’s fleet as a result of saying goodbye to its B737 Classics and Dash-8-400s.

airBaltic to Dubai
airBaltic’s Dubai route will have a block time of six hours and 25 minutes out and six hours and 45m back. Image: GCMap

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A220 “perfect” for the route

Speaking on March 24th, airBaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss, said that the A220 is the “perfect” aircraft for the route, highlighting the versatility of the type to efficiently operate both very short and longer sectors. And with a block time to Riga of almost seven hours, Dubai is long.

airBaltic’s CEO told Simple Flying that the airline will be working on partnerships to help drive awareness and demand further. He specified tourism organizations rather than another airline, meaning Dubai will likely be go-it-alone. This will be fine, although it’s in contrast to when airBaltic served Abu Dhabi, for which it had a codeshare arrangement with Etihad Airways.

airBaltic CEO
Speaking on March 24th, airBaltic’s CEO, Martin Gauss, said that he expects “very high” seat load factors (SLF) to Dubai, as he would say, with SLF one part of route performance.

Why Dubai?

The Riga-Dubai market saw nearly 20,000 point-to-point round-trip passengers in 2019, booking data obtained from OAG Traffic Analyser shows, with the route obviously strong for tourism. That volume is pretty decent and is higher than the demand from the other Baltic capitals, Tallinn and Vilnius.

airBaltic will also be able to capture passengers connecting over Riga to/from dozens of destinations across Northern Europe, such as Brussels:

  • Brussels-Riga: 18:30-21:55
  • Riga-Dubai: 23:10-06:35+1
  • Dubai-Riga: 08:05-13:50
  • Riga-Brussels: 16:25-17:50
airBaltic A220
airBaltic last served the UAE in early 2020. Photo: airBaltic

airBaltic served Dubai and Abu Dhabi before

The United Arab Emirates is not a new destination for airBaltic. The carrier served Dubai from Riga until 2012 using leased B757-200s. The route operated during the winter on a once-to-three-times-weekly basis, analysis of OAG data shows.

Dubai ended in March 2012, and airBaltic then launched Abu Dhabi on December 16th, 2013. The reason was to partly to feed codeshare partner Etihad Airways at its Abu Dhabi hub, for which airBaltic operated four-weekly using the 125-seat A319 leased from Czech Airlines.

But Abu Dhabi didn’t last long, ending as it did after just 16 weeks. It was then relaunched on October 29th, 2017, again on a four-weekly basis, but this time using the A220. It operated winter-seasonally until March 2020.

airBaltic 757
When airBaltic served Dubai before, it used leased B757-200s. Photo: Aleksandrs Samuilovs via Wikimedia.

Not the longest A220 route

Despite its length, Riga-Dubai won’t be the world’s longest scheduled A220 route this year. That crown is held by Air Austral’s Reunion to Chennai flight, at 2,870 miles, although with a lower block time than airBaltic’s coming Dubai route. Still, airBaltic will be second-longest.

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