Latvia's Air Baltic eyes neighbouring opportunities

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Latvian carrier Air Baltic will look at the potential to operate out of neighbouring airports as the restructuring airline plots a return to growth.

Speaking to Flightglobal Pro during the recent Paris air show, chief executive Martin Gauss reported solid progress on the airline's five-year restructuring plan.

"We are one and a half years through the plan and we are ahead of schedule in the restructuring plan. We have exceeded our expectations," he says. "We under-estimated the potential of the cost-savings we have found."

The airline cut full-year losses by 78% last year to 19 million lats ($35.4 million) and reported a further cut in losses for the first quarter of this year. "We're well ahead of plan. We can be optimistic that the turnaround can happen as planned," he says. But he adds it is too early to say if the carrier can return to profit earlier than planned in 2013.

If that first stage of the plan has been about stemming losses, the next stage will see growth return to the airline's agenda. "Now the focus is having more revenues," he says. That growth envisages passenger numbers growing from 3 million to reach 4 million by 2016. Part of that growth also could see it expand its operation to neighbouring airports such as Vilnus and Tallin. "We are looking at possibly flying direct from them," he says.

That future also includes a revamped fleet, which has already seen it shed its Fokker 50s to base its fleet around Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s, and from 2015 Bombardier CSeries regional jets.