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IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded28 August 1995; 25 years ago (1995-08-28)
Commenced operations1 October 1995; 25 years ago (1995-10-01)
HubsRiga International Airport
Secondary hubs
Frequent-flyer programPINS
Fleet size23
Parent companyGovernment of Latvia
HeadquartersMārupe municipality, Latvia
Key peopleMartin Gauss (CEO)[1]
RevenueIncrease €503 million (2019)
ProfitDecrease €-7.7 million (2019)

airBaltic, legally incorporated as AS Air Baltic Corporation, is the flag carrier of Latvia, with its head office on the grounds of Riga International Airport in Mārupe municipality near Riga.[2] Its hub is at Riga International Airport, with further bases at Tallinn Airport and Vilnius Airport.

The company temporarily suspended operations on 17 March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic,[3] and flights only restarted on a limited basis from 18 May 2020.[4]


Early history[edit]

A former airBaltic Avro RJ70 in historic livery, which was retired in 2005
An airBaltic Boeing 757−200WL taking off from Riga International Airport, the airline's base, with other aircraft in the fleet in the background (May 2010)
The airline's hub, Riga International Airport, also houses the corporate head offices.

The airline was established as Air Baltic on 28 August 1995 with the signing of a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and the Latvian state. Operations started on 1 October 1995 with the arrival of the first Air Baltic aircraft, a Saab 340, at Riga, and that afternoon, the plane made the first passenger flight for Air Baltic.[5]

In 1996, the airline's first Avro RJ70 was delivered; and Air Baltic joined the SAS frequent flier club as a partner. 1997 saw the opening of a cargo department and, in 1998, the airline's first Fokker 50 plane was delivered. The adopted livery was mainly white, with the name of the airline written in blue on the forward fuselage, the 'B' logo being heavily stylized in blue checks. The checker blue pattern was repeated on the aircraft tailfin.

In 1999, airBaltic became a joint stock company; it was previously a limited liability company.[6] All of their Saab 340s were replaced by Fokker 50s. By September, the airline had begun operating under the European Aviation Operating Standards, or JAR ops. Air Baltic welcomed the new millennium by introducing new uniforms and opening a cargo centre at Riga's airport.

The first Boeing 737-500 joined the fleet in 2003, and on 1 June 2004, Air Baltic launched services from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, initially to five destinations. In October 2004, Air Baltic was rebranded as AirBaltic. Their present livery consists of an all-white fuselage and lime tailfin. is displayed on the forward upper fuselage, and the word "Baltic" is repeated in blue on the lower part of the tailfin. In December 2006, the first Boeing 737-300 joined the fleet and was configured with winglets. In July 2007, AirBaltic introduced an online check-in system.[7] It was the first online check-in system in the Baltic states. In the spring of 2008, two long-haul Boeing 757s joined the existing AirBaltic fleet. On 10 March 2008, it was announced that in the next three years the airline would acquire new aircraft, experiencing the largest fleet expansion in the company's history. The new additions will be next generation De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft.

AirBaltic had strong links with SAS, which owned 47.2% of the airline, and operated frequent flights to SAS hubs in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. Some of AirBaltic's products and services are still shared with SAS, including co-ordinated timetabling and shared airport lounges. AirBaltic is not a member of any airline alliance but does have codeshare agreements in place with several Star Alliance member airlines and others.

AirBaltic had secondary hubs at Vilnius Airport and Tallinn Airport.[8] The majority of the routes commenced from Tallinn were cancelled shortly after opening, leading to complaints from the Estonian Consumer Protection Department.[9]

In January 2009, SAS sold its entire stake in the company (47.2% of the airline) to Baltijas aviācijas sistēmas Ltd (BAS) for 14 million lats. BAS was wholly owned by Bertolt Flick (President and CEO) until December 2010, when 50% of BAS shares were transferred to Taurus Asset Management Fund Limited, registered in the Bahamas.[10]

Development since 2010[edit]

In August 2011, AirBaltic requested more than 60 million lats in capital as its losses continued to mount,[11] and suffered speculation about its financial position[12][13][14][15] and political scandals throughout 2011.[16][17] In mid-September 2011, the company announced plans to lay off around half its employees and cancel around 700 flights a month to avoid possible grounding.[18][19] The company also announced that a mystery investor was willing to pay 9.6 million euros for an additional 59,110 shares.[20] On 4 October 2011, the plans were annulled in order to make the necessary investments in the airline's capital. The government of Latvia and BAS agreed to invest around 100 million lats in the airline's share capital in proportion to their stakes in AirBaltic.[21][22] In connection with the agreement, Flick stepped down as long-term President and CEO of the airline. Martin Gauss, former CEO of Hungarian airline Malév, became the new CEO.[23]

AirBaltic had made an announcement on 23 September 2010 that it would establish a new secondary hub at Oulu Airport,[24][25] but in early 2012 it was confirmed that the Oulu hub plans had been cancelled due to AirBaltic's financial problems.[26]

The cost-cutting program, initiated by AirBaltic which aims to return to profitability in 2014, scored better than planned results in 2012, by narrowing its losses to €27.2 million, from €121.5 in 2011.[27][28]

The state's shareholding had been 99.8% since 30 November 2011, following the collapse of a bank linked with a finance package negotiated for the airline,[29][30] but on 6 November 2015 it was reported that the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers had approved plans to sell 20% of airBaltic to German investor Ralf Dieter Montag-Girmes for €52 million and agreed to invest a further €80 million in the airline. The total of €132 million of fresh capital for the carrier is intended to spur its Horizon 2021 business plan and fleet modernisation.[31][32] Following the closure of Air Lituanica and Estonian Air respectively in June and November 2015, it is alongside Nordica, one of two flag carriers in the Baltic countries.

The Bombardier CS300 delivery was much anticipated by airBaltic since this new aircraft type was originally planned to replace most of the airline's Boeing 737-300s and Boeing 737-500s and now will replace all by 2020. The delivery of the CS300 happened on November 29, 2016, at 2 am ET. On November 28, Bombardier and airBaltic held a ceremony in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada for the first delivery of the CS300. At 1:30 am, shortly before the scheduled departure, an oil leak from an engine was spotted. It delayed the departure, but at 2:23 am ET, the aircraft was now airBaltic's property. On board the inaugural flight, there were 18 people, including 6 pilots: 3 from Bombardier, and 3 from airBaltic. At 4:13 am ET, after a delay of over 2 hours, flight BT9801 took off en route to Stockholm. The airline received two CS300 in 2016 and expects to receive six in 2017, eight in 2018 and four more in 2020.[33]

According to Reuters, AirBaltic is looking for opportunities to replace its Q400 turboprop fleet. Currently offers from Bombardier and Embraer are being viewed as possible future suppliers of new aircraft with possible deliveries of 14 aircraft, beginning from 2020.[34]

On September 26, 2017, AirBaltic announced it would buy at least 14 additional C Series aircraft from Bombardier before the end of 2018. The airline plans to switch to an all-C Series fleet by the early 2020s.[35] Additional orders by Air Baltic were announced by Bombardier on May 28, 2018. The order included 30 CS300 with options and purchase rights for a further 30 CS300.[36][37] Airbus purchased a 50.01% majority stake in the CSeries program in October 2017, with the deal closing in July 2018. The family is subsequently also called the Airbus A220.

In March 2020, airBaltic announced it will suspend operations on 17 March due to the coronavirus outbreak. The decision is intended to help limit the spread of the virus.

Corporate affairs[edit]

The airBaltic check-in area in Riga International Airport
The cabin of an airBaltic Airbus A220


airBaltic is a joint-stock company, with current shareholders (as of May 2016):[38][39]

Shareholders Interest
State of the Republic of Latvia (represented by the Ministry of Transport) 080%
Aircraft Leasing 1 SIA (wholly owned by private investor Lars Thuesen) 020%
Total 100%

Business trends[edit]

The airline's full accounts have not always been published regularly; figures disclosed by Air Baltic via various publications are shown below (for years ending 31 December):

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Turnover (€m) - 261 292 327 326 325 300 285 286 348 409 503
Net profit after tax (€m) - 20 −52 −121 −27 1 9 19.5 1.2 4.6 5.4 −7.7
Number of employees (at year end) - - 1,443 - 1,100 - - 902 1,201 1,410 1,585 1,716
Number of passengers (m) 2.6 2.8 3.2 3.3 3.1 2.9 2.6 2.6 2.9 3.5 4.1 5.0
Passenger load factor (%) 62 68 69 75 72 - 70 71 74 76 75 76
Number of aircraft (at year end) 28 31 35 34 28 25 24 24 25 30 34 38
Notes/sources [40]
[44][46] [44][47] [48] [49][50] [51][52] [53] [53] [54][39] [55]


At the time the company temporarily suspended operations, airBaltic operated direct year-round and seasonal flights from Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, mostly to metropolitan and leisure destinations within Europe.

The company did not operate long-haul flights at the time it suspended operations.

Codeshare agreements[edit]

airBaltic has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[56]


An airBaltic Airbus A220-300
An airBaltic Boeing 737-300

Current fleet[edit]

As of June 2020, the airBaltic fleet consists of the following aircraft:[64]

airBaltic fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
Airbus A220-300 23 27 145 Launch customer for the A220-300.[65] Order with 30 options.
Three painted in Baltic states livery (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania).[66]
Total 23 27

Historical fleet[edit]

airBaltic retired fleet[67][68][69][70]
Aircraft Introduced Retired Replacement Notes
Airbus A319-100 2013 2014 None Leased and operated by Czech Airlines for 3 months
Avro RJ70 1996 2005 None
Boeing 737-300 2007 2020 Airbus A220-300 [71]
Boeing 737-500 2003 2019 Airbus A220-300
British Aerospace 146-200 1995 1996 None Leased for 3 months
Boeing 757-200 2008 2014 None
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 2010 2020 Airbus A220-300 [71]
Fokker 50 1998 2013 Bombardier Q400
Saab 340 1995 1999 Fokker 50


The special Estonian flag livery on one of airBaltic's Airbus A220-300s

The original livery was painted on Avro RJ70s and had a white fuselage. The original airBaltic colour scheme, blue and white, was painted on the engines and the vertical stabiliser. The second-generation livery also had a lime green wingtip and vertical stabiliser; however the logo was changed to and the word airBaltic was painted on the engines, which were in their original metallic colour.

Until December 2019, the livery consisted of a white fuselage and lime green vertical stabiliser, wingtips and engines. In December 2019, the rear fuselage below the vertical stabilizer was also painted in lime green, with the tail cone remained white.[72] The logo, stylised 'airBaltic', is painted in dark blue on the fuselage across the windows and on the underside of the aircraft. This livery is mainly used on A220s.

In order to represent the three Baltic states, three of the A220s have been painted in a series of national flag liveries - one each for Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.[66]


Frequent-flyer programme[edit]

AirBaltic formerly used the SAS EuroBonus frequent flyer programme, but it now has its own frequent flyer programme called airBaltic Club, where travellers can earn 'pins' and collect stamps while travelling and receive various rewards. There are three levels: Club level, Executive level and VIP level, each with different reward structures.[73]

In-flight services[edit]

On most flights, airBaltic offers a buy on board menu offering food and drinks for purchase.[74]


  • On 6 December 2017, due to heavy winds and a slippery surface, an airBaltic Boeing 737-500 slid off a taxiway after landing in Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport.[75]
  • On 17 September 2016, an airBaltic de Havilland Dash 8-400, registered YL-BAI, performing flight BT-641, landed at Riga without its nose gear due to problems with the nose gear.[76]
  • A drunk airBaltic crew including a co-pilot at seven times legal alcohol limit stopped by the police in Oslo before a flight in 2015. The second officer was sentenced to six months' jail while the captain and flight attendants also faced proceedings after a tip-off stopped them from taking charge of flight from Norway.[77]


  1. ^ Flottau, Jens (6 February 2018). "SINGAPORE: AirBaltic CEO: PW1500G spare engine supply for CS300 improved". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 6 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Latvia." AirBaltic. Retrieved on 30 June 2018. "Air Baltic Corporation AS Registration number: 40003245752 ADMINISTRATION RIGA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Tehnikas 3, Marupe county LV-1053, Latvia" - Office location
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  73. ^ airBaltic. "airBalticloyalty club". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  74. ^ "airCafe." AirBaltic. Accessed 30 October 2008.
  75. ^ Due to heavy winds and slippery taxiway airBaltic flight BT428 with Boeing 737-500 from Riga to Moscow, slid off the taxiway during taxiing after the landing in Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport on December 6, 2017
  76. ^ airBaltic DH8D at Riga landing without nose gear
  77. ^ "Drunk airBaltic crew included co-pilot at seven times legal alcohol limit, the guardian news article".

External links[edit]

Media related to AirBaltic at Wikimedia Commons