AirBaltic Expands UK Footprint

Latvian carrier airBaltic has announced plans to fly between Manchester and Riga. The new scheduled services are due to launch on March 29, and will mark the airline’s third UK destination after London/Gatwick and a seasonal operation to Aberdeen. The link is designed to offer convenient connections to passengers flying not only to the Latvian capital, but also to 70 onward destinations across Scandinavia, Russia, and the Middle East. The development boosts competition on the route, with low-cost giant Ryanair already linking the two cities using Boeing 737-800 examples.

The nonstop routing from Manchester will operate four-times weekly and be served using the carrier’s new Airbus A220-300 aircraft. AirBaltic has one of the world’s largest fleets of the narrowbody jet, which represents one of the greenest in its class alongside wider seats and larger windows when compared with its competitors.

Martin Gauss, airBaltic chief executive officer commented on the Latvian capital’s appeal for inbound visitors: “Riga is a dynamic city and a key business centre of the Baltic states and has a lot to offer to both business and leisure travellers. It is also a very convenient transfer point with excellent connections within our wide route network.”

Photo: airBaltic

Traffic on the Riga-based carrier’s existing UK routes continues to grow, with 17% more passengers expected in 2019 than last year – of these, almost a fifth of travellers are transferring onwards. Data from the airline suggests the other Baltic capitals of Tallinn and Vilnius are popular final destinations, along with Helsinki and Turku in Finland, and Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia.

Stephen Turner, commercial director at Manchester Airport added: “Riga is already a very popular destination, so it is great to see the Latvian flag carrier come onto the route too, giving additional choice and flexibility for the 22 million people in our vast catchment area. We look forward to the route starting next year and seeing the airline grow from the UK’s global gateway in the North.”

The news forms part of a wider network expansion from the airline, with plans for four more new destinations for summer 2020: from Riga to Trondheim, Bergen and Yerevan, and from Tallinn to Nice.

Photos: airBaltic’s A220 Hattrick

AirBaltic has completed its trio of special Baltic liveried Airbus A220s with the application of the Lithuanian flag to the fuselage and tailplane of YL-CSK (c/n 55039). The jet has also been renamed ‘Vilnius’, after the country’s capital city.

It Joins Latvian and Estonian-inspired colour schemes which were rolled out in November and June respectively.

Coinciding with the country’s centenary, the initial aircraft, YL-CSL (c/n 55041) flew over Riga in formation with a pair of Belgian Air Component F-16AMs and a German Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000, which were deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania and Ämari, Estonia on Baltic Air Policing duties.


Unveiling the third aircraft, the airline said: “During the first six months of 2019 airBaltic has transported over 240,000 passengers to and from Lithuania. The airline has carried 20% more passengers in Lithuania to its network spanning Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East than during the same period last year.”

It reported similar growth in June when revealing it had painted A220, YL-CSJ (c/n 50038), in Estonian national colours: “[Over] the first five months of 2019 airBaltic has transported [more than] 210,000 passengers to and from Estonia. [It also] carried 31% more passengers in Estonia to its network than during the same period [in 2018].”


Martin Gauss, the carrier’s CEO: “We are proud to provide the best connectivity to and from the Baltics. Today, we offer more than 80 direct routes from the Baltics. We are committed to the Baltic states and will continue our sustainable growth path helping the future development of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. airBaltic team is delighted to present this new livery to its Lithuanian passengers. Now the flags of all three Baltic states will proudly wave above our heads high in the skies.”

The three aircraft are expected to be gathered together for an event later this month celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way – a peaceful political protest held on August 23, 1989. Reuters news agency reported at the time that 700,000 Estonians, 500,000 Latvians and 1m Lithuanians joined hands, forming a human chain from Tallinn, through Riga, to Vilnius – around 373 miles (600km).

Airbus in Alabama: A220 Production Begins

Airbus has started manufacturing the first A220s at its Mobile, Alabama-based final assembly line. Work began on August 5 and followed the return of the first group of technicians who had undergone on-the-job training at Mirabel, Québec, Canada, where the A220 programme and primary assembly line are located.

The company first revealed plans to establish a second final assembly line at Mobile in October 2017, with construction on a new production hangar and other support buildings starting earlier this year. Airbus said it will be producing the first few A220s in the same buildings as it uses for the A320 Family aircraft while also utilising recently completed support hangars. The first US produced A220 – a -300 for Delta Air Lines – is scheduled for delivery during the third quarter of next year, and by the middle of the next decade, the facility will be producing between 40 and 50 A220s per year.

After completing their training in Mirabel, the initial group of technicians has started work on the first A220 final assembly in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo Airbus)

Jeffrey Knittel, Airbus Americas chairman and chief executive office, remarked: “The expansion of our commercial aircraft production in Mobile to a second product line – with 400 additional jobs to support it – further solidifies Airbus’ standing as a truly global aircraft manufacturer, and confirms without a doubt that it is also an important part of America’s manufacturing landscape. With Mobile, and our production network in Asia, Canada and Europe, we have strategically created a worldwide industrial base to better serve our customers.”

Airbus explained the A220 is the only purpose-built aircraft for the 100-150 seat market. With the very latest aerodynamics, use of advanced materials and Pratt & Whitney PW15000G geared turbofan engines the jet is already achieving at least a 20% lower fuel burn per seat compared to previous generation types. With orders for 551 examples by the end of June 2019, the manufacturer believes it has the credentials to win a lion’s share of the 100-150 seat market, estimated to represent 7,000 aircraft, over the next 20 years.