What’s in a name? airBaltic receives its ninth CS300, soon to be called the….

Last weekend Latvia’s national carrier airBaltic took delivery of its ninth Bombardier CS300 CSeries aircraft from the Canadian manufacturer. The only difference between this example and the eight it has received previously being that it is devoid of any titles mentioning the name of the aircraft as Airbus finalises a takeover of the regional aircraft programme and an expected renaming that will see the aircraft between fit into its product line.


Summary:

  • airBaltic took delivery of its ninth Bombardier CS300 CSeries aircraft on 16-Jun-2018 and will receive another five aircraft before the end of the year;
  • A deal by Airbus to acquire the CSeries programme from the Canadian manufacturer will soon see the project rebranded within the Airbus product portfolio;
  • A recent order has seen airBaltic boost its CS300 commitment to 50 firm aircraft to support a Destination 2025 strategy to become market leader from the Baltic region;
  • The airline has boosted demand by more than a fifth (+22%) over the first five months of 2018, versus the same period in 2017.

airBaltic was the launch customer for the CS300 the larger variant of the CSeries family that was first launched with the CS100 version. And while it may not be the largest operator of the type, a position held by the CS100 launch carrier Swiss International Air Lines, or the largest customer for the type, it has been its biggest advocate, flying and displaying branded aircraft to air shows in Berlin, Dubai, Paris and Singapore to highlight the project to potential airline customers across the globe.

An airBaltic CS300 is expected to line-up in the static park at next month’s Farnborough Air Show in the UK at which time the airline’s CEO Martin Gauss hopes he will know a little more about the future of the programme, especially having just signed up for up to 60 additional aircraft and growing its firm commitment to 50 aircraft.

Speaking at the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Airline CEOs in Sydney forum earlier this month he highlighted the key role the aircraft was playing in delivering the airline’s Horizon 2021 strategy and will become the driver of its new Destination 2025 strategy, which will be delivered with an exclusive CSeries fleet.

But, the aircraft will not be known by that name for much longer and something Mr Gauss highlighted in Australia at the aforementioned CAPA conference. “We have no idea what our aircraft will be called next week,” he joked to laughter from the audience. “They said they will send us stickers to Riga.”

The journey to an exclusive operator of the renammed aircraft will see airBaltic replace its remaining Boeing 737 Classics and Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop fleet in the first half of the 2020s, with the latter due to be returned as their leases expire in 2022 and 2023, or perhaps even earlier with Mr Gauss suggesting the retirement of these aircraft could be completed “in the next three years”.

In a marketplace with continued fuel price volatility, Mr Gauss describes the aircraft as “a natural fuel hedge,” burning a fifth (22%) less fuel versus its older generation aircraft on comparable services. “Better to be having a brand new aircraft burning less fuel than having older versions,” he adds, describing the type as “the most suitable aircraft for the markets in which we operate”.

From its original order, airBaltic will receive a further 11 aircraft by the end of next year with five more due to be accepted in 2018. Its additional aircraft will also start to arrive from the final quarter of 2019 and will be used to significantly expand the airline’s operation – not just within Latvia, but across the neighbouring nations of Estonia and Vilnius.

CHART – airBaltic has significantly boosted its passenger traffic levels since introducing the CS300 into its fleet and commencing scheduled operations with the type from Dec-2016Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and airBaltic reports

airBaltic already has a presence in their capitals Tallinn and Vilnius and will likely look to replicate its successful model from Riga from these cities. Its network from the Baltic region now stretches to 70 routes and boosted this summer by eight new destinations from Riga to Malaga, Lisbon, Split, Bordeaux, Gdansk, Almaty as well as Sochi and Kaliningrad. In addition, it also launched a new direct route connecting Tallinn and London.

Since its scheduled debut in Dec-2016, airBaltic has already carried over 1.16 million passengers on its CS300 aircraft with one in every four airline passengers flying on the aircraft. The type has now completed more than 11,300 flights and flown around 30,000 block hours. The type has played a key role in helping the airline grow its network, boosting demand by more than a fifth (+22%) over the first five months of 2018, versus the same period in 2017. Across the period load factors remained at 71%, but hit 75% in May-2018, and despite growing its schedule by 14% punctuality improved 0.2 percentage points year-on-year to 90.0%.