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AirBaltic Among Many European Carriers to Suspend Flights to Minsk
AirBaltic – Latvia’s national flag carrier – is among the latest carriers in Europe to suspend its flights to Minsk after the recent international political incident involving Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair. One of the low-cost airline’s planes was forced to divert and one of its passengers, who was a Belarusian opposition journalist and political activist, was escorted off the aircraft.
As a result, the European Union (EU) has ordered all carriers to avoid flying over Belarusian airspace, mounting intense pressure and repercussions on the Belarusian regime. In addition, the EU plans to take a step further and request the European Council to ban all Belarusian carriers, which includes Belavia, the Belarusian flag carrier, from flying into airports in its member states; Belarus is not an EU member, as NPR reports.
In response to the order from the European Council and recommendation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Latvia, airBaltic will suspend all flights from the Latvian capital to Minsk starting on May 27 until further notice. The Riga–based carrier scheduled 126 flights between the two cities until late October, but due to the recent mandate, the carrier will avoid the Belarusian airspace through the summer, affecting more than 1,500 flights.
airBaltic is not the only airline in Europe to suspend flights to Minsk. As Reuters reports, Lufthansa and KLM are among the many airlines based in EU member states that have announced they will temporarily halt flights. KLM has taken the notion from the Dutch Prime Minister.
Focus On Leisure Travel
While airBaltic seems to have no reason to celebrate as the political disturbance in Belarus will disrupt its summer travel schedule, potentially causing a loss in revenue and an increase in flight cancellations, the carrier carried 49,000 passengers in April 2021 – 67% more than in March – and operated 1,010 flights.
This summer, the Baltic carrier plans to fly to more than 70 destinations from Riga, its main hub in the region, featuring seven cities in Italy and Greece, while the airline will fly to six cities in Spain. airBaltic has strategically capitalized on the summer travel season when travel demand is at its highest, and the airline will accommodate the leisure travel demand to countries that plan on reopening its borders.
Martin Gauss, Chief Executive Officer of airBaltic, said, “A year ago we were able to only perform a limited number of repatriation flights for Baltic citizens returning home. Today, as the vaccination levels improve, the situation is different. More people are planning safe summer leisure trips, and we are here to provide a wide selection of exciting and safe travel opportunities,” an outlook accurately portrayed by the airline’s decision to prioritize the health and safety of its passengers and crew during the ongoing pandemic and recent political altercation.
Certainly, the political conflict in Belarus will impede airlines’ plans to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and resume flight operations. However, there’s plenty of evidence to believe that the airBaltic will rebound, given its summer flight schedule.
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