AirBaltic ‘Optimistic’ Over Summer Rebound
Latvian carrier airBaltic expects passenger traffic to almost double this year despite the impact of the war in Ukraine on its business.
The airline hopes to carry some 3.3 million passengers in 2022, up from 1.63 million in 2021 and 1.34 million in 2020. However, this year’s forecast remains down on the record 5 million total achieved before the pandemic in 2019.
“We are quite optimistic about the summer,” SVP of network Wolfgang Reuss said at Routes Europe 2022 in Bergen. “However, we obviously had a major setback in February with the tragic events in Ukraine. “We had a large network in Ukraine and a very large network in the Russian Federation. Obviously, both of them are not operating anymore and we have to find ways to compensate for that.”
Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that Russia accounted for about 5.2% of airBaltic’s departure seats pre-pandemic in 2019, while Ukraine was around 2%. In 2021, Ukraine accounted for about 2.5% and Russia approximately 1.4%.
Reuss said that routes which used Russian or Ukrainian airspace have also been affected, meaning that flights from Riga (RIX) to the likes of Almaty (ALA) in Kazakhstan and Baku (GYD) in Azerbaijan remain suspended.
To help mitigate the impact of the war in Ukraine, airBaltic is increasing the number of aircraft operating on an ACMI basis and has introduced more leisure routes. The hybrid-carrier has also opened its first base outside the Baltics region in Tampere (TMP), Finland. This joins bases in Riga, Tallinn (TLL) and Vilnius (VNO).
Speaking about the airline’s decision to open in Tampere, Reuss said plans to base one Airbus A220-300 at the airport from May 1 were afoot before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It's a very major business center in Finland and it was completely underserved,” he said. “There were only a handful of flights per week, going in and out of Tampere, even before COVID. Following COVID it was even worse.”
AirBaltic already operated Riga-Tampere service and has since added routes from the Finnish city to Copenhagen (CPH), Frankfurt (FRA), Malaga (AGP), Munich (MUC), Oslo (OSL) and Rhodes (RHO). A route to Amsterdam (AMS) opens on June 1.