The successful entry into service of the Bombardier CS300 version of the CSeries on the European network of airBaltic is facilitating the Latvian carrier’s expansion into medium-haul markets. The operational performance of the airliner will facilitate the return of the carrier’s flights between Riga and Abu Dhabi, which through a codeshare with Etihad Airways will open up new connections from the Baltic region into the Middle East, Africa and across into Asia and Oceania.
airBaltic will inaugurate the Riga – Abu Dhabi service from the start of the winter schedules on October 29, 2017 and will operate four weekly return flights using its CS300. The Etihad Airways ‘EY’ code will also be displayed on the flight under a full codeshare partnership.
“We are delighted to link Latvia and the UAE with our brand-new Bombardier CS300 that fly longer distances and reach airports that we were not able to serve with our fleet before,” said Martin Gauss, chief executive officer, airBaltic.
“Our codeshare cooperation with Etihad Airways will offer convenient connections to passengers travelling from the Baltic airports to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi and further to key destinations in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as provide new travelling opportunities from Abu Dhabi to European and Scandinavian airports,” he added.
The UAE is one of Latvia’s main trading partners in the Gulf region with Latvia’s main exports comprising machinery and electronics, food products, vehicles, woodwork as well as chemical products and pharmaceuticals.
airBaltic previously flew the Riga – Abu Dhabi route for a single winter season between December 2013 and March 2014 with four times weekly flights using a two-class 116-seat Airbus A319 leased from Etihad Airways. This flight operated with a split schedule ensuring optimal connectivity over each airline’s respective hubs in Abu Dhabi and Riga.
At 6 hours and 15 minutes, the Riga – Abu Dhabi flight will be the longest current scheduled CSeries flight. Since airBaltic launched operations with the type between Riga and Amsterdam in December 2016, it has been using its two aircraft on flights around Europe. Likewise, Swiss International Air Lines, the only other operator of the CSeries, uses its CS100s and recently delivered first CS300 on solely European schedules.
airBaltic has selected the Canadian-built airliner for its exclusive future short-haul fleet and will replace all its existing Boeing aircraft with 20 factory new CS300s by 2020. The aircraft will not just modernise the fleet and boost efficiency, but will also enhance the airline’s range of services, expanding into medium-haul markets. We highlighted last year that Abu Dhabi and the likes of Almaty, Astana, Casablanca, Dubai, Marrakech and Tenerife could all be serves sustainably by the aircraft from Riga thanks to its operating performance.
“Bombardier’s CS300 airliners are integral to the execution of airBaltic’s business development strategy Horizon 2021 and fleet optimisation plan,” said Gauss. “With its longer range capabilities, lower fuel burn and reduced noise emissions compared to other airliners in its segment, the CS300 aircraft will enable airBaltic to open new routes and connect people all across Europe, while offering passengers an unparalleled in-flight experience."
Data from the AirVision Market Intelligence tool from Sabre Airline Solutions shows that airBaltic carried an estimated 8,000 bi-directional passengers during the four months it previously served the Riga – Abu Dhabi return market. Around two thirds (67.8 per cent) of the passengers were travelling on the airline’s ‘BT’ code and around one in three (32.1 per cent) under the ‘EY’ codeshare offer of Etihad Airways.
A closer look at the data shows the majority of the traffic (55.4 per cent of passengers) was local demand between Latvia’s capital city and Abu Dhabi, with small flows connecting from behind and beyond Riga from and to the likes of Helsinki, Vilnius, Tallinn and Copenhagen and Stockholm. There was very little connecting traffic via Abu Dhabi, according to the data, albeit for some flows from Singapore.
An estimated 2,700 O&D passengers flew between Riga and Abu Dhabi last year, up 6.2 per cent on the previous year, only a small local market, but a growing one since the previous operation of non-stop flights. The historical operational data highlights how strongly the non-stop offering stimulated the market previously and together with better marketing of connection options this stimulation effect will play an important role in the success of the route.