RIGA - EasyJet, one of Europe's largest and fastest-growing airliners, marked its first flight to Riga last week in a bid to increase exposure to the rapidly growing market in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
The discount airliner, which in October launched flights to and from the Estonian capital, on Nov. 25 welcomed its inaugural flight from Berlin, the only city yet to have Riga-bound flights. EasyJet officials said they hoped to carry over 90,000 passengers on this one route during its first year of service.
"Our goal is to have all our flights full, irrespective of the seasonality and the market conditions," said Yannis Capodistrias, easyJet marketing manager in the Baltics.
The company has already sold 10,000 tickets on the route, he said.
"Our experience has shown in other European markets [that] the addition of a low-cost carrier on a route does not reduce the passenger traffic of other carriers on the same route but results in significant growth of the relevant market," Capodistrias said.
EasyJet will go head-to-head with airBaltic on the Berlin-Riga route, though the latter flies to Tegel (some eight kilometers from downtown Berlin), the former will fly to Schonefeld (20 kilometers from the center).
Price-wise, a two-way ticket from Riga to Berlin on easyJet will start at 41 euros (including taxes), the company wrote in its press release.
"We believe that our entrance to the Latvian market will influence beneficially both the Latvian tourism and the airline industry," said Capodistrias.
If Estonia is any measure, then he is likely to be right. Last week easyJet announced it had carried some 10,000 passengers to Berlin and London during the first month of operations, surpassing Estonian Air, which handled 8,200 passengers on the two routes in the month of October.
"We are satisfied in every respect with the result so far," easyJet spokesperson Samantha Day said. "We see big potential in Tallinn. We are looking at demand and activity by competitors."
EasyJet's arrival on the Latvian market comes just weeks after Ryanair, Europe's largest discount airline company, began flights to and from the Latvian capital.
Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Slesers, who was largely responsible for attracting Ryanair and easyJet, recently said that the discount airline revolution in the Baltics was the outgoing government's greatest accomplishment. Estonian transport authorities immediately followed suit, enlisting easyJet to launch flights to Tallinn, and Lithuanian officials are busy trying to arrange a discount carrier hub in Kaunas.
EasyJet operates 184 routes connecting 58 European airports in 18 countries. Since its founding in November 1995, the company has grown tremendously, and its fleet currently consists of 95 aircraft - 68 Boeing 737s and 27 Airbus A319s.