Exclusive: The Airline CEO Who Flies Airbus A220s

airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss has become the first airline CEO to receive an Airbus A220 type rating. Gauss was previously able to fly the airline’s Boeing 737s. However, these were retired from the airline earlier this year due to the worldwide passenger crisis.

airbaltic ceo, A220 Pilot, Martin Gauss
Martin Gauss is the world’s first airline CEO with an Airbus A220 type rating. Photo: airBaltic

While not a requirement, it’s also not unusual for an airline’s CEO to be a pilot. After all, Willie Walsh, former British Airways CEO, and Carsten Spohr, the Lufthansa Group’s current CEO, are both pilots. However, while Zeit online reported in 2014 that Sphor is not allowed to fly planes for the airline while he serves on its board, this is not the case over at airBaltic.

Not just an airline CEO

airBaltic’s CEO Martin Gauss started his career as a Boeing 737 pilot. He has always remained current in his capacity as an airline CEO. However, when his airline transitioned to becoming an all-Airbus A220 operator, he also had to transition to becoming an Airbus A220 pilot.

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The road to becoming an A220 pilot wasn’t the easiest for Gauss, as his transition course came right as the airline suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, Gauss told Simple Flying that he started training on the Airbus A220 on December 16th.

Moving forwards, Gauss will continue to operate enough airBaltic flights to stay current and up to date with procedures. However, an airline CEO’s busy life means that he won’t be able to fly as much as his regular line pilots.

What’s it like flying with an airline CEO?

You may be wondering what it’s like flying with an airline CEO. After all, surely the new kid would feel pressured if flying with his boss. In reality, this is not the case as Gauss told Simple Flying,

“It will be only our training captains flying with me. That is something we do, so there will be always two captains flying… I think you leave your CEO badge in the office. You are a captain now, which comes with everything you have to do as a captain. I can do still that switch because that’s what I originally learned. I take it very seriously.”

airbaltic ceo, A220 Pilot, Martin Gauss
Gauss had been working on his type rating since December last year. Photo: airBaltic

However, while he can leave his CEO badge in the office while flying the aircraft, Gauss’s favorite thing about the A220 still comes from the CEO perspective. That is the environmental friendliness of the aircraft. Guess pointed out the high fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions savings of the aircraft.

When asked where he would like to land the A220 given the choice of any airport, Gauss had two answers. Firstly, Sydney because he misses the city at the moment. A year ago, Gauss was in Australia with the A220 as part of Airbus’ Aisa Pacific tour.

The second destination mentioned by Gauss was New York. Given the length of the flight to New York, he would have a layover, giving him time in the city.

airbaltic ceo, A220 Pilot, Martin Gauss
A year ago, an airBaltic A220 was in Sydney as part of Airbus’ Asia-Pacific tour. Photo: Airbus

An advantage for a CEO

Being a captain on your aircraft is, of course, an advantage for any airline CEO. When problems are delivered to him, Gauss can relate to them in a capacity that a non-flying CEO may not be able to. Gauss commented,

“With that comes all the knowledge about the daily operations. So, if something pops up at the management level, then, of course, there’s our senior vice president of flight operations… But then there’s also the CEO who has heard of it and or has seen it before. I think it is not a disadvantage. But you don’t have to be a pilot to be the CEO of an airline.”

airbaltic ceo, A220 Pilot, Martin Gauss
Gauss completed his training with circuits of Riga on October 1st. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

Not operating special flights

When asked if he would fly any delivery flights for airBaltic’s upcoming A220 deliveries, Gauss remained incredibly down to earth. He told us,

“It’s something I could do, of course, but I think that is something very special. And I would leave all the special flights to our captains, because I have done many special things in my life. I have had the privilege to run airlines as a CEO. So I would say, all these special flights, I will leave to the captains in our airline who should also enjoy these special flights.”

What do you make of airBaltic’s CEO becoming an Airbus A220 captain? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!