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Brussels Airlines sprouts new Riga route

Brussels Airlines launched its new Riga destination Sunday with the first of six weekly flights, reported national information agency LETA.

The company marked the inaugural route with a press conference Monday, at which Xavier LaGardin, the airline’s vice-president for e-commerce affairs in Europe said the new service would provide connections beyond currently available options for vacation-bound passengers with Latvian national airline airBaltic.

Hinting at possible cooperation amongst the two carriers serving one and the same route through “code-sharing” arrangements, Arnis Muiznieks of the Transport Ministry’s Aviation Department remarked: “Let’s not speak of unwanted competition here, but rather about cooperation, resulting in added value.”

On his part, general director Andreass Weingartner estimated that Brussels Airlines could carry about 8000 passengers in its first six months operating the Riga-Brussels route. He added that the carrier is banking on an increase in tourist interest after Latvia assumes the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

LaGardin also affirmed the role of Latvia’s Presidency in prompting the airline to choose Riga International Airport (RIX) as its destination partner.

“Brussels is Europe’s capital, so we will serve those guests who wish to head from Brussels to Riga in light of Latvia’s assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the EU,” he said.

RIX board member Andis Damlics said he was pleased with the favorable outcome after lengthy negotiations with Brussels Airlines. He said the new route offers passengers from Latvia more options for transferring through Brussels and vice versa, not just as a business hub, but also for tourists.

Riga Interational Airport is currently served by 16 commercial airlines and is the largest aviation hub in the Baltic states.

Meanwhile, travel news portal Jaunted.com reported that Brussels Airlines has become a key link for travel to the West African nations fighting the Ebola virus outbreak, because carriers such as British Airways and Emirates have temporarily suspended their service on routes to the region, leaving Brussels as the only option of transfer for passengers from outside Africa.

Two weeks ago on October 10, TIME magazine reported on Brussels Airlines' determination to maintain regular flights, despite health concerns. “It is our humanitarian duty to operate there,” said Geert Sciot, a vice president at Brussels Airlines. “Without our flights it would become almost impossible for medical staff to reach the country.” They note that Brussels crew are at least no longer overnighting in the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

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