airBaltic has now been operating the Airbus A220 for half a decade. The Latvian carrier started using the type back when it was the Bombardier C-Series on December 14th, 2016. At the time, the A220 was a small part of the fleet. The plane has grown to become the Riga-based carrier’s only aircraft type in the years since.
The pandemic wasn’t kind on the giants and jumbos of the skies. However, the small but nimble A220 proved that it was the little jet that could, already exceeding its pre-pandemic usage back in June. airBaltic is the type’s largest carrier.
From zero to hero
When the Bombardier C-Series arrived in the airBaltic fleet, it wasn’t established in the global fleet. After all, airBaltic was the launch customer of the larger -300, and SWISS had only started flying the smaller -100 roughly five months prior.
airBaltic committed to the jet, and it looks as though the decision paid off. Today, the airline has 32 A220-300s, removing all other types from its fleet. With this in mind, the airline is looking to become an A220 specialist with training, maintenance, and more offerings.
Year on year, the number of A220s in the airBaltic fleet has been growing, and alongside this, the number of flights has been increasing. According to data from Cirium, the airline operated just 68 A220 flights with its first two jets in 2016. This reached a peak of 23,885 flights in 2019.
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When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, airlines worldwide grounded their fleets, but airBaltic was the first to make what seemed like a drastic call at the time. This led to the airline’s scheduled flights dropping by 20% to 18,978 in 2020. Though airBaltic has already bounced back. It had 23,130 flights planned this year, down just 3% in 2019.
A story still developing
The Airbus A220 story is still developing at airBaltic. By 2024, the airline intends to operate 50 of the type and will become a one-stop-shop A220 hub. The airline wants to offer MRO services to other A220 operators with smaller fleets. Only operating the A220 means that airBaltic can focus on maintaining the type, whereas it may not be so cost-effective for a small operator with a handful of jets.
Commenting on the A220’s five-year milestone, airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss (who is also qualified to fly the airline’s A220s) remarked,
“Airbus A220-300 has transformed our airline. We are now flying the most efficient and greenest fleet, offering a higher level of service to our passengers. A220-300 have performed better than expected, and have enabled us to reach further destinations like Dubai or Tenerife. We can’t wait to fly 50 A220-300 by early 2024.”
Have you flown on an airBaltic Airbus A220? How did you find it? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!