This morning, Riga-based airBaltic announced that it intends to operate two additional flights departing from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Riga, Latvia this week. Seats on these extra flights are already on sale via the airline’s website. This move is to address the significant passenger demand for flights leaving the Ukrainian capital.
Additional flights leaving Kyiv
The extra flights will be in addition to other non-direct daily services that airBaltic operates between the two cities. The additional services are flight BT1403 departing Kyiv at 8.40 pm, landing in Riga at 10.30 pm, a flight time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. The aircraft to be deployed on these extra flights will be from the airline’s fleet of A220-300 aircraft, which according to planespotters.net currently has 28 of its fleet of 32 in active service. airBaltic has also announced that it will operate additional flights from the Ukrainian capital to Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday, February 15th, Thursday, February 17th, and Saturday, February 19th.
Two additional airBaltic flights are due to leave Kyiv-Boryspil Airport this week. Photo: airBaltic
Tensions are high
Given that political tensions are running extremely high in the area and that many media outlets predict Ukraine’s imminent invasion by Russian forces, airBaltic has decided to offer additional capacity for those seeking to leave the country expeditiously. The two additional flights will provide 290 additional seats (145 per flight) leaving Kyiv. Onward flights from the airline’s main hub in Riga allow passengers to make onward connections to its wide network of destinations across Europe, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates.
Airlines taking a cautious approach
Several airlines have recently pulled out of Kyiv altogether in recent weeks, such as KLM. Others have announced that they are no longer parking aircraft overnight at Kyiv-Boryspil Airport for fear of a Russian invasion meaning that crews and planes could be caught up in any military action. Such airlines include SWISS, Austrian Airlines, and Lufthansa. Meanwhile, Ryanair recently announced that it would be limiting its exposure to Ukrainian airspace wherever possible.
Several airlines including Ryanair and Lufthansa have taken measures to minimize their risks in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images
Some carriers have avoided overflying Ukraine since a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile en route from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in 2014. Commercial flights are still prohibited from flying over Eastern Ukraine and the disrupted Crimean Peninsula. Additionally, many airlines have been re-routing flights between Europe and Asia to avoid Ukrainian airspace over the past few weeks.
Just over the weekend, the Ukrainian government has offered a $592 million slush fund to incentivize airlines to maintain services so that Ukrainian nationals can continue to enter end leave the country as usual, regardless of whether the anticipated invasion commences.
On Saturday, an aircraft flown by the Ukrainian charter airline SkyUp en route from Kyiv to Madeira was diverted to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, after the plane’s Irish leasing company owner said it was banning its aircraft operating in Ukrainian airspace. However, at the time of writing, several of the airline’s other aircraft are operating in and out of Kyiv Airport normally.
Ukrainian airline SkyUp recently had an aircraft diverted away from Kyiv. Photo: SkyUp Airlines
The airline has thrived and survived during COVID-19
airBaltic’s quick response to the enormous increase in demand for travelers wishing to leave Kyiv in recent days comes on the back of a very successful 2021 for the carrier. airBaltic served 1.62 million passengers last year, a 21% increase from the year before, as reported by Simple Flying back in January.
It also recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the Airbus A220-300 into its fleet, the first arriving when the aircraft was still known as the Bombardier C-Series. The airline was the launch customer for the larger A220-300 variant and has become something of a trailblazer for the type in Europe. It hopes to operate 50 of the type in the next two years.
airBaltic is delighted with its fleet of Airbus A220-300s. Photo: airBaltic
The world watches and waits
The world waits to see what the next few days bring for the country of Ukraine and its citizens. In the meantime, airBaltic continues to operate to Kyiv, contributing what additional capacity it can spare to assist in the evacuation for those who wish to leave.
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