Lithuania’s government intends to establish a new national airline later this year or early in 2021.

The ministry of transport and communications says it will “initiate establishment of a virtual Lithuanian national airline” to restore air links from the Baltic state “in a post-Covid-19 situation”, without reliance on external operators.

A new national airline will enable the government to “adapt more flexibly to the new demands of the Lithuanian air connectivity… thus minimising dependence on the constantly changing strategies of the foreign air carriers”, the ministry argues.

It says the project will “most certainly” involve private-sector partnership, but “to which extent remains to be seen”.

Noting a “highly fluid situation with the pandemic” and the “complexity” of establishing an airline, the ministry adds: “We are still in the early stage of defining which possible solution could be optimal for Lithuania… All options are still on the table.”

Many airlines have scaled down expansion plans to save costs and because they foresee reduced travel demand over coming years as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Lithuanian leisure carrier Small Planet Airlines suspended operations in 2018. The Vilnius-based airline – which had German and Polish subsidiaries that ceased flights prior to their parent – operated a fleet of eight Airbus A320s before Lithuania’s civil aviation authority revoked its licence in November 2018.

In 2015, Air Lituanica halted flights less than two years after launching. That airline had operated across Europe with a fleet of Embraer E-Jets. It was the latest attempt to create a stable carrier in the Baltic state following the failure of Lithuanian Airlines in 2009.

Latvian carrier Air Baltic operates from Lithuania and Estonia as well as its home country, where it has its main hub at Riga.