Could airBaltic Be Planning Flights to the United States?

by Anthony Losanno
airBaltic Livery

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Back in November, I wrote about airBaltic, the flag carrier of Latvia, being the launch and largest operator of the Airbus A220-300 and the announcement of a codeshare partnership that began on November 22nd with Delta Air Lines. Now it looks like the carrier might be planning service from Riga Airport (RIX).

Aviation insider, @IshrionA, first speculated about the possibility of airBaltic flying to the United States. It does not currently have any aircraft in its fleet that could make the journey since the Airbus A220-300 cannot cover the distance. This would mean that airBaltic would need to acquire a bigger plane that could make the journey or have a tech stop somewhere along the way.

The stopover would need to be in Dublin Airport (DUB) or the perfectly spaced, Keflavík International Airport (KEF) in Iceland. Back in November, the CEO of airBaltic told balticnews that the airline does not have any current plans to offer direct flights to the United States, but a connection to New York could be coming in the future.

The codeshare agreement it began in November will allow Delta to market and sell 20 airBaltic-operated routes to three of the Latvian carrier’s biggest destinations, including Riga International Airport (RIX), Tallinn Airport (TLL), and Vilnius International Airport (VNO). This latest rumor makes you wonder if a flight to New York would also be added to this arrangement.

What makes this even more interesting (and possible) is that airBaltic has requested permission from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate a flight. It reads:

In July 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration placed Latvia in Category 1 under its IASA safety program, which now enables AIR BALTIC and other carriers from Latvia to operate to the United States with their own aircraft. Given this development, AIR BALTIC requests that the Department amend its foreign air carrier permit to remove the codeshare only limitation and also grant it exemption authority to operate with its own aircraft the open skies authority set forth in its existing foreign air carrier permit.”

None of this means that the airline will actually begin to fly to the United States, but it’s interesting to watch. AirBaltic operates more than 100 routes from Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, and Tampere to destinations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus region. I can personally attest that the Balkans are underrated and great places to visit on a European vacation at a lower cost and without the crowds you’ll find in Paris, Rome, or Madrid.

Anthony’s Take: This would be an interesting development and provide easy access to Latvia and the Baltics. We’ll have to wait to see if this rumor becomes any more concrete. With the CEO’s comments back in November it appears it’s not totally ruled out, but not yet ready to fly.

(Featured Image Credit: airBaltic.)

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Mike B March 20, 2024 - 8:22 pm

I think in your closing references, you mean the Baltics, not the Balkans. But I agree with you, visited the Baltics for the first time on a cruise last year, and now have a follow-up visit to Riga booked for early Summer.

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Anthony Losanno March 20, 2024 - 8:55 pm

Yes, I was reading something about Croatia and had the Balkans on the brain. Fixed. Thanks!

Ivars Bezdechi March 20, 2024 - 8:38 pm

The Riga International Airport was recently certified by the Federal Aviation Administration for security.

But you may have a boo-boo, depending on what you meant.

“I can personally attest that the Balkans are underrated and great places to visit on a European vacation at a lower cost and without the crowds you’ll find in Paris, Rome, or Madrid.”

“Balkans” are usually characterized as comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

The “Baltics” are Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

I think you meant “Baltics.”

derek March 20, 2024 - 9:04 pm

In the 1990’s ATA (American Trans) flew many Chicago Midway flights but did fly a JFK – Belfast – Riga Latvia flights using the 757. The CEO was Latvian.

ATA went into bankruptcy and ended operations in 2008.


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