Latvian flag carrier airline airBaltic announced on Monday that it intends to purchase up to 60 new Bombardier CS300 airplanes in a large-scale expansion of its current fleet.
The Latvian airline's current fleet consists of 31 planes, including eight Bombardier CS300s, five Boeing 373-500s, six Boeing 737-300s and 12 Bombardier Q400 NextGens.
Speaking at a press conference about the airline's expansion, airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss said that in the future, airBaltic will only operate aircraft from one manufacturer.
AirBaltic will initially sign a contract with Bombardier for the purchase of 30 planes, with an option for another 30. The company hopes to have a total of 80 Bombardier CS300 planes by 2024.
According to Bombardier, the total price tag for the 30 planes is $2.9 billion (€2.36 billion), while the potential cost of the full order is $5.9 billion (€4.8 billion).
The Bombardier CS300, which flew for the first time in February 2015, seats 130-160. AirBaltic was the first airline to begin flying the plane commercially, with the plane's first commercial flight taking place on 14 December, 2016.
AirBaltic to increase flights out of Tallinn
The Latvian airline already intended to operate 11 routes out of Tallinn by 2025, but with the planned expansion of its fleet, the number of flights from Tallinn may increase even more.
"We will be at nine routes by the end of this year already," Gauss told BNS. "As we are acquiring new aircraft, we intend to increase the number of routes out of Tallinn by signifcantly more than we had previously planned."
In addition to launching new routes, airBaltic will grow as a result of increases in passenger numbers on existing routes, he continued.
"On routes where a 70-seat aircraft previously used to suffice, we needed to replace them with 100-seat aircraft, and now with the CS300 aircraft which are bigger still," Gauss explained. "Global air traffic volumes will double over the next 18 years."
Although additional flights are planned for Tallinn and Vilnius alike, Riga will remain the airline's home base, and according to the CEO, Riga could emerge as a hub for long-distance flights in the future.
Gauss said that while airBaltic is not currently capable of flying long-distance routes at this time, should an airline offering long-haul flights be interested in operating in the region, airBaltic and Riga would be the most logical partners for them.
AirBaltic is legally incorporated as AS Air Baltic Corporation.
Editor: Aili Vahtla
Source: ERR, BNS