AirBaltic CEO: Passengers think Baltics are unsafe destinations

airBaltic Airbus.
airBaltic Airbus. Source: airBaltic

Due to the relaxing of pandemic restrictions, travelers from the Baltics have increased, but there is a hesitancy from tourists to come to the region due to the war in Ukraine, the head of AirBaltic has said.

In recent months, the Latvian airline has hired more staff than it needed to lay off during the pandemic. Russian destinations have been replaced and the company hopes to resume flights to Ukraine as soon as possible. Sixteen new aircraft will be introduced on routes in the coming years.

In an interview with ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" CEO Martin Gauss said travel has increased but had not yet reached pre-crisis levels.

"Large [tour] companies are gradually returning and the number of bookings is increasing every week. Mainly because of the number of travelers, not so much the number of guests who come here. They are still very few because the Baltics are seen as a border region and, especially in the view of Western countries, that there is a big risk of war," he said.

Latvian public broadcaster LSM has a round-up of how the Baltics and Finland have been affected here. Last week, Santa Graikste, executive director of the Latvian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said hotel bookings have been canceled at around 60 percent.

AirBaltic to list on stock exchange

Over the last two years, 340 million has been allocated to the AirBaltic to help it survive the pandemic. This money will need to be repaid and the company will list on the stock exchange - although this only makes sense if the firm is profitable.

For Estonia, this also raises the issue of being able to influence the development of the company.

Gauss said the Latvian government has made a "firm decision" to list the airliner.

"The shares will go on sale so that private investors, as well as countries, can decide whether they want to buy a part of our company to influence its development. Our home market is all the Baltic countries. We are a Latvian airline, but also the largest carrier in Estonia, despite the fact that the Estonian state is not our owner. We develop air traffic in Estonia with our money and risk, and we do this work every day," he said.

Additionally, the U.S. is conducting an audit of AirBaltic in order to authorize a co-operation or code-sharing agreement with Delta Airlines. If this is successful, it will open up opportunities for transatlantic flights.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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