DALLAS — Everyone loves a niche product, be it a simple home tool or what an airline can offer its passengers, and Air Baltic (BT) has delivered it.
Ever since 2011, the airline underwent a revolutionary transformation and restructuring that now has a crisp look to itself, a fleet of the vibrant lime green A220, and just about the right mix between a full-service and a low-cost carrier – a hybrid indeed.
Today’s post looks at BT’s Business Class experience from the carrier’s home of Riga (RIX) to Dusseldorf (DUS), Germany, onboard its A220.
Lounge at RIX
As a connection at Riga, my first stop was the lounge. Located on a floor above the gates, it’s open to all AIrBaltic and major European airlines’ business guests.
Upon entering, you’ll surely glance through the lovely collection of aircraft models by the reception desk, and what was even more surprising was to see a massive Lufthansa 747-400 model on the other side.
Plush seating and well-lighted, the overall area is very well catered to Riga’s traffic levels and has a good view of the apron, not ideal for spotting though as some blinds fall through and block a clear picture.
A variety of cold snacks, nibbles, and a limited offering of hot meals are available. A full self-service bar is also present at the far end of the lounge. A pleasant time and… it’s got a good ratio of space to passengers and isn’t anywhere as crowded as the major gateways, where you’d drive yourself mad to even find a vacant chair.
Aircraft and Flight Data
I later headed to gate B9 which is on the lowest level, indicating a potential bus gate or a short walk directly to the aircraft, the latter it was. A brief walk in the chilly Baltic November weather and the A220 had the floodlight light it up, and it wasn’t just me who got the camera clicking.
Today’s jet, an Airbus A22-300 wearing registration YL-CSH that goes by “Līvāni” was delivered to the airline in 2018 and features 145 seats in total.
- Flight Number: BT233
- Riga (RIX) : 17:30 LT Dusseldorf (DUS) : 18:45 LT
- Estimated Flight Time: 02h 15min
The AirBatic Welcome and Experience
Climbing up the stairs, a warm welcome awaited me from the crew who made sure I comfortably got to seat 1F. The Business cabin had five seats in total, oddly split – just one row on the left aisle and two on the right. The A220 has a seating layout of 2X3 and in Business, the seat next to you is blocked making it a 1X2 layout.
On an earlier AirBaltic flight, the business cabin had an additional row, which goes to show BT has two or more versions of business layouts.
As for the very first row, the forward wall restricts legroom compared to the aft seat options. A hot towel and a drinks menu were handed out immediately.
The cabin attendant also listed out the option for dinner and there was only a single choice. I got myself a Bottega initially. Dinner followed soon.
Stand B19 has a turn pad taxi-out option requiring no pushback, so it was a quick start-up and taxi to Runway 18. In darkness we departed, so all eyes lead you back inside the cabin.
As for IFE, there are no personal screens much like any business carrier in Europe. But as a hybrid carrier, magazines are available in a print edition in your seat pocket and what’s more, is the small screen on the overhead panel that ranges all through the A220 with a mere two-seat interval.
There’s always something playing on it, moving flight maps, AirBaltic marketing, be it inflight food deals for economy or onboard duty-free shopping. You can also see brief commercials for their new destinations. Besides the screens, the Baltic Outlook Magazine makes a good read.
Dinner service took over twenty minutes after takeoff. Braised duck along with a local mashed wheat-based staple was served with a cold cucumber appetizer, a warm bread roll, and a hazelnut cheesecake.
The meal was great, much better than what I’ve experienced in business Europe on Lufthansa (LH) or Air France (AF) by quality and quantity. A good balance in flavor and pleasing presentation. Have to stress the fact that the bread was warm, and didn’t end up being a rock like it usually happens.
The seat in itself does have a good lot of cushion and has a decent recline for a flight of two hours.
A big win through these tiny screens is that they completely eliminate the cabin crew having to carry out the emergency briefing in person, which would otherwise eat up to around ten minutes or so.
Another move, what you’d often find at restaurants and bars ever since the pandemic, is to order your food and drinks through a barcode scan. The same concept is available to passengers in Economy.
You need not flip the magazine to find what you went but just get your phone to do it and hit order. Tiny differentiations like this end up making an airline very efficient, and elegant and also stand out and keep the “hybrid” label.
New Routes for the Baltic Carrier
This winter, BT launched its first-ever flight service to the African continent: Marrakech in Morocco and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Up until today, for the running year, the carrier has transported over 2.6 million passengers with a positive trend.
AirBaltic’s fleet stands at 36 strong, all A220, with another four expected to join by the end of the year.
The Airbus A220 aircraft has become a favorite in the 100-to-150-seat category for airlines and passengers alike. Check out our brief on the type’s momentum below.
All Images: Author