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airBaltic will emerge from crisis strong, says CEO

The Latvian national airline airBaltic will be very strong after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and when it is possible to fly in full volumes again, growth will be very rapid, the CEO Martins Gauss said in an interview to LETA September 3.

The turnover of airBaltic during the first half of this year decreased by 63.6%, to EUR 78,713 million, while the group's losses increased almost seven times and amounted to EUR 184.77 million.

Gauss explained that the reason for the losses was COVID-19, as the company's operating results were much better than expected in January and February.

“Then followed a 62-day period in which we stopped flights at all. We had to lay off a lot of employees. We didn't have income. On the other hand, the expenses were high because we had to change ticket bookings and return the money for tickets on canceled flights, and we continue to pay back now, too. We also need to continue leasing payments for airplanes. The loss calculation includes payments for planes that we don't use right now,” the head of airBaltic said.

Gauss also said that for the airline, these are historically the biggest losses in the first half of the year. He added though that the same situation is also observed in other airlines, and airBaltic's losses are even considered small compared to others.

“Losses will be even higher because there are another six months and we are returning to a situation where the number of flights is declining. Therefore, losses will grow. At the same time, we have a plan that we are sticking to, and when we can fly full again, growth will be very rapid,” said Gauss.

He expressed regret to the fact that there are very strict restrictions on air transport in Latvia, including adding that Latvia is the only country in Europe that limits air travel to such a large extent.

“These things have to be discussed, because we have to be connected to other countries, but at the same time we have to be protected. There must be both of these things, because COVID-19 is practically not carried via air travel,” Gauss said, stressing that the population will not be protected from COVID-19 by banning flights while the traffic of cars across borders is not limited.

The head of the airline said that, for example, you can fly from Germany to any destination. There are only certain risk countries, and if anyone returns from them, quarantine or tests must be carried out, but no one prohibits transport.

“But we are a Baltic airline and we cannot move with our airplanes to Germany, and declare that we will now fly from there,” Gauss said.

“I will stress that airBaltic will exit this crisis very strong because of the actions that we implemented at the outset. This has also been demonstrated by experience to date, since in July, when the most flights took place, demand was very high, and so we have done the right thing in our plans to date,” the head of airBaltic said.


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