airBaltic To Open A New European Base Next Year

As its name suggests, Latvian flag carrier airBaltic has a significant presence in the Baltic region. In addition to its hub in Riga, it also has bases in neighboring Estonia (Tallinn) and Lithuania (Vilnius). Next year, the airline is eyeing further growth in the form of a new European base. However, in a break from tradition, this one will not be located in the Baltics.

airBaltic To Open A New European Base Next Year
airBaltic has interesting network expansion plans for 2022. Photo: Getty Images.

airBaltic’s dynamic network approach

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, airBaltic has shown a dynamic approach to its network. The result of this has been that, as Simple Flying reported in September, the airline’s route portfolio has now surpassed the network it operated before the health crisis.

Earlier today, Simple Flying had the chance to sit down with airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss at the World Aviation Festival in London. The Latvian flag carrier’s dynamic network was one of several topics covered in what proved a fascinating insight into the airline’s pandemic-era operations. Regarding the shifts that airBaltic made to its routes, Gauss explained that:

We had to reduce frequencies on the classical business shuttle routes, like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt, for the benefit of new destinations, where there is demand because of leisure traffic. And that led to a higher amount of routes served by us today, [although] we have less block hours, or less flights, overall.”

COVID-19 has prompted airBaltic to reduce frequencies on business-centric routes. Photo: Getty Images

A new European base for 2022

With frequencies set to increase as the world of European aviation hopefully begins to open up, Gauss confirmed that airBaltic would receive eight more Airbus A220-300s next year. These deliveries will begin in the Spring. However, it isn’t just the fleet that will expand.

Indeed, airBaltic is also hoping to establish a greater European footprint in terms of bases. It plans to do so by opening a fourth base, to complement its existing bases in Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius. The location for this remains under wraps, with Gauss explaining:

We will open a base in Europe. It’s too early to say where. (…) We [have been] successful with the Tallinn operation in the last two years, becoming a leader in the Estonian market. (…) And that led us to say okay, we’ll take the next one and put aircraft somewhere else, which we will announce soon. It’s a historic announcement because it will be the first outside the Baltics.”

airBaltic To Open A New European Base Next Year
The new base will be the airline’s first outside the Baltic region. Photo: Getty Images.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Africa isn’t on the cards yet

Gauss also explained to Simple Flying that he is often questioned about the prospects of establishing the airline in Africa. After all, its Airbus A220s have the range to serve the north of the continent, and already operate lengthy flights to the likes of Dubai and Tenerife, which last nearly seven hours. However, this isn’t on the cards for the time being. Gauss states:

We have no problem with the range of the aircraft reaching Addis Ababa, so people could say Northern Africa [as a potential location]. But I was asked that, and it’s not the first place where airBaltic would put an aircraft.”

What do you make of airBaltic’s plans to open a new European base? Where might you like to see the airline do so? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.