After being forced to halt operations in Ukraine and Russia due to the ongoing conflict, airBaltic will wet-lease a portion of its Airbus A220 aircraft to other carriers until summer 2022.
The Latvian airline has already secured contracts for nine A220s to be leased on an ACMI basis to Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS) and Eurowings, according to its full-year financial report for 2021. AirBaltic is also negotiating wet-lease agreements for two other aircraft that have been released from Ukrainian and Russian destinations.
In reaction to flight suspensions in Russia and Ukraine, airBaltic’s chief operating officer, Pauls Calitis, said during a Livestream presentation of the airline’s full-year results that “this is our method to boost the airline’s profitability.”
“Assuming both Russian and Ukrainian markets stay closed for the rest of 2022, the negative impact on the passenger revenue is estimated to be EUR 25 million,” the airline outlined in its financial report.
“In our business plan, we have a slower COVID recovery scenario, which means the passenger traffic rebounding in the Baltic states is on a slower pace than we would like,” said airBaltic chief financial officer Vitolds Jakovlevs.
The carrier may also wet-lease some of its aircraft to other carriers for two, three, or even four years, according to Jakovlevs.
The airline reported a financial loss of EUR 136 million (US$146 million) in 2021, up from EUR 246 million (US$266 million) the previous year. In 2021, the company handled 1.63 million passengers, up 21% from the previous year.
Furthermore, airBaltic’s income increased by 41% to EUR 204 million (US$221 million) in comparison to 2020.
With 32 Airbus A220s in its fleet, the airline became the world’s largest A220 operator in 2021. Despite the market’s volatility, the airline plans to keep adding new A220s to its fleet. The airline plans to have 50 A220s in service by 2024.
In the summer of 2022, the airline anticipates solid reservations driven by leisure travel. AirBaltic expects to transport 3.3 million passengers and earn EUR 400 million (US$434 million) in revenue.