Dubai returns to airBaltic’s network after nine-year absence

The hybrid carrier expects to begin flights in September ahead of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Almost nine years after last flying to Dubai, Latvian airline airBaltic has announced plans to restore the emirate to its route map.

Starting Sept. 1 the carrier will begin flying four times per week from its home hub in Riga (RIX) to Dubai International (DXB). Service will be on board Airbus A220-300 aircraft.

The planned launch comes ahead of Expo 2020 Dubai, a global event that runs from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2022 and is expected to welcome 190 participating countries.

“Dubai for years has been one of the most significant unserved destinations from Riga,” airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss said.

“Now, with the Expo 2020 starting in October, we will offer a direct connection from Riga, which will be appreciated by many passengers across the Baltic region and Scandinavia.

“Additionally, the new route will provide an excellent connectivity further from Dubai International to the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa.”

AirBaltic last served the RIX-DXB market nonstop in April 2012 using Boeing 757-200s. Since then, the destinations have been without direct service.

Data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence shows that O&D traffic between Riga and Dubai totaled nearly 13,000 two-way passengers in 2019, with Moscow (SVO) the top connecting point. Compared with other Baltic capitals, there were around 8,000 passengers between Tallinn, Estonia, and Dubai in 2019, and 13,000 from Vilnius, Lithuania.

“Expo 2020 Dubai will be the first in-person global mega event since the pandemic began, which will be welcoming millions of visitors from all over the world,” UAE ambassador to Latvia Hanan Al Aleeli said.

“Therefore, the timing of these convenient and fast flights between Riga and Dubai before the event is exceptional, and will contribute not only to economic development, but also in creating further opportunities for political, cultural and people-to-people ties between the UAE and Latvia.”

At 4,319 km, the RIX-DXB route will become the farthest in airBaltic’s network, ahead of RIX- Almaty (ALA) in Kazakhstan which is 3,949 km.