RIGA - AirBaltic announced last week that it intended to buy six new planes and that revenues for the first half of 2004 surged 37 percent year-on-year with a huge increase in passenger turnover.
Company President Bertold Flick announced at a press conference that the airliner would purchase two Boeing 737-500s with 120-seat capacities for Riga flights and four more, including two Boeing 737-500s and two Fokker 50s with 52 seats, for flights from Vilnius.
AirBaltic said that its expectations for the Lithuanian market, where it launched flights in June, had been surpassed, and that it wanted to continue boosting its share in the neighboring country.
To do so, the company will cancel its lower performing routes, particularly to Prague and Warsaw, in the near future, though no date was specified.
Flick said he was unsatisfied with the Warsaw route's operational results. "Poland's market is traditional - they are not flying because they believe that flying is very expensive," he said, adding that airBaltic, which has 21 international routes from Riga and 10 from Vilnius, plans to launch two more routes from Riga and three from Vilnius later this year.
Starting Sept. 15 the company will inaugurate flights between the Lithuanian and Estonian capitals.
In the first six months of this year, the airline's revenues amounted to 21.6 million lats (32.2 million euros), though profit dropped 11 percent to 3.3 million lats.
Speaking about the company's finances, Flick was ecstatic.
"A 37 percent sales growth - it is simply fantastic."
He said that airBaltic carried 235,695 passengers from January to June, up 57 percent year-on-year. In July the airline handled 60,440 passengers, up 80 percent compared with a year ago.
The results, said Flick, point to a stronger economy.
Comparably last year the company had 347,966 passengers, up 33 percent year-on-year.
Flick would not reveal revenues for the entire year, adding only that the numbers "looked very positive judging by the present situation." What's more, sales growth was ensured despite staff training costs and the increase in fuel prices, as well as costs connected with launching flights from Vilnius.
Commenting on the announcement, Czech Airlines local representative Pavel Sharf said that the departure of airBaltic would not lead to a rise in prices.
"The situation in Latvia is that [prices] are more or less decreasing," he told the Baltic News Service.
AirBaltic's new planes will be added to the company's existing fleet of 15 planes: six Boeing 737-500s, three AVRO RJ 70s and six Fokker 50s.
The airline is 52.6 percent owned by the state and 47.2 percent by SAS.