Does airBaltic's 'world record' claim really mean anything?

Take note – story published 6 years and 10 months ago

Last week, Latvian airline airBaltic was abuzz with its latest landmark – it had done nothing less than set a new world record in the aviation industry!

In a press release and a video clip posted to its YouTube channel, the airline gushed about its achievement in starting commercial flights with one of its new CS300 planes within an hour of taking delivery – which if nothing else shows remarkable levels of trust now exist between the airline and its supplier, Bombardier of Canada.

"Today, on July 21, 2017, the Latvian airline airBaltic has set a new world record as its
newest CS300 turnaround for the first commercial flight took only 50 minutes after delivery from Canada," said a release.

Martin Gauss, the Chief Executive Officer of airBaltic was quoted as saying: “We have yet
again demonstrated our professionalism as the launch operator of CS300 aircraft by achieving the world record for the fastest turnaround for the first commercial flight.”

In the video Gauss goes even further saying that taking the plane from delivery to commercial flight would mean "we would hold [the] world record of taking an aircraft from the factory into commercial service within one hour."

The sixth airBaltic CS300 aircraft, registered as YL-CSF, arrived in Riga on July 21, 2017 at 11:15, Riga time. The flight time was 7 hours and 25 minutes and the aircraft covered 6 470 km non-stop distance between the Canadian and Latvian airports. At 12:06, Riga time YL-CSF initial turnaround was finished and the aircraft departed for its first commercial flight BT641 to Zurich at 12:17 according to information supplied by airBaltic.

"Never before a CS300 aircraft has been prepared for the first commercial flight as fast, making it a new world record," claimed the airline.

As far as passengers are concerned, they are likely to care more about whether their flight is on time and reasonably priced than how many minutes elapsed since the pilot was handed the keys, but even so, the claim to "world record" status seems more marketing ploy than genuine landmark.


So, was a "new world record" really set?

LSM contacted airBaltic to ask for a few obvious clarifications: what was the previous world record and which airline held it; was any independent verification provided for the times claimed; and whether this turnaround record applies to anything other than the five CS300 planes already being operated by airBaltic (which is the first in the world to use them).

In reply we received a statement that left our questions essentially unanswered but re-affirmed the claim to world record status, multiple times.

"On July 21, 2017 when airBaltic received the sixth CS300 aircraft a new world record was set. It was the first time that turnaround for the inaugural CS300 commercial flight has been carried out so promptly as it took only 50 minutes right after the factory delivery from Canada. Never before a CS300 aircraft has been prepared for the first commercial flight as fast, making it a new world record."

Basically, it appears airBaltic's claim to a "new world record" rests solely on the fact that it put its sixth CS300 into service faster than the previous five. Swiss International Airlines (Swiss) operates the only other two CS300 aircraft currently in commercial service, bringing the potential number of previous world record holders up to eight.

And despite airBaltic being the first commercial operator of the CS300, even Bombardier is referring to Swiss as its "launch operator" and "launch airline" on the basis that it has bought both CS300 and CS100 aircraft.

So it is not the world record for the fastest turnaround of a plane or even the fastest turnaround from delivery of a plane, it is the 'world record' for the fastest turnaround from delivery of a Bombardier CS300 plane out of the eight that have been put into service so far.

By the same criteria, you might claim a "world record" for the turnaround time between taking delivery of a pizza from the pizza parlor on the corner of the street to consuming its last cheesy crumbs, on the basis that the world record only applies to pizzas from that particular pizza parlor, delivered to your apartment and eaten by you... or your Swiss friend who isn't quite as keen on pizza as you are.

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