Two big fishes in the Baltic's airline industry have struck a deal, as airBaltic and SAS begin codesharing routes around Scandinavia as of today.
The agreement allows airBaltic to transfer passengers to such destinations as Alesund, Bergen, Stavanger and other Norwegian cities, while SAS will be able to transfer passengers easily from the three hubs in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm to Riga.
Codesharing with SAS allows airBaltic to further expand their destination network, as passengers will be able to travel from Riga to more and more destinations from the SAS network, as the Scandinavian airline offers long-haul options, while airBaltic focuses on more regional destinations around Europe.
So, while not a full airline alliance per se, the agreement allows passengers to access more routes and the airlines to save operational costs.
Nonetheless, this is not the first times the two airlines have come together.
When multiple companies established airBaltic back in 1995, one of those companies was SAS – the airline held a 29% stake at airBaltic. As time went on and airBaltic kept successfully expanding in the Baltics, SAS started heavily investing in the company. In 2001, SAS purchased more shares and owned 47% of the company.
airBaltic's SAAB 340. One of the first aircraft to be operated by airBaltic. Source
However, the financial crisis of 2008 hit the Latvian airline really hard and it started losing a lot of money. SAS wanted out and the Latvian government decided to intervene and purchased SAS’s shares. Currently, the Latvian Ministry of Transport holds 80% of the shares.
So, the codesharing pact was not a big surprise, as it will greatly benefit everyone involved. On the other hand, it was actually a surprise – considering the close ties between the two airlines, the agreement has come rather late after the divorce in 2009.
Nevertheless, the benefits for one of the most punctual airlines, airBaltic, are great. Their business model is rather unique, as the company acts as a low-cost carrier and a full-service airline at the same time.
The innovative way of conducting their operations has earned them multiple rewards from various organizations.
For example, did you know that airBaltic once sold Mini Coopers on board their aircraft? While the offer is not available anymore, the Latvian carrier did provide an option to purchase the car. You had to make a €50 payment while in the air and the whole car cost €24 699. The Mini Cooper came out of the factory with airBaltic’s livery.
airBaltic Mini Cooper