MIAMI – AirBaltic (BT) CEO Martin Gauss becomes the first Chief Executive Officer to gain an Airbus A220-type rating, according to an exclusive story by Simple Flying’s Tom Boon.

Previously, the Airline CEO was able to fly the airline’s Boeing 737 aircraft. However, these aircraft have now been withdrawn from the fleet of carriers due to the ongoing economic crisis.

Boon reminds us that for an airline CEO to be a Pilot for his or her airline is not a prerequisite. Willie Walsh, former CEO of British Airways (BA), and Carsten Spohr, new CEO of the Lufthansa Group (LH), are both pilots. Spohr, while working as an executive member, is not permitted to fly for his airline as a Pilot, as previously reported by Zeit online in 2014. However, at BT, this is not the case.

According to the Simple Flying exclusive, Martin Gauss started his career as a Boeing 737 Pilot. He has always remained as such in his current role as the airline’s CEO. When his airline became an all A220 operator, he also had to move to become an A220 certified Pilot.

His path to becoming an A220 Pilot was not as easy as when the airline suspended operations due to the pandemic. In December 2019, he started training for this form of ranking. Gauss aims to fly enough flights to remain current on the form, but he will not fly as frequently as his usual flight Crews because of his work.

Airbaltic has 23 A220’s in its fleet with more on order ©️ Martin Fribreg

Flying With an Airline Boss


Now, you are possibly wondering what it is like to fly with your boss, especially if you are fresh out of flying school and just starting with the airline. However, SP’s Boon writes that for Gauss, this was not the case:

“It will be only our training captains flying with me. That is something we do, so there will be always two captains flying… I think you leave your CEO badge in the office. You are a captain now, which comes with everything you have to do as a captain. I can do still that switch because that’s what I originally learned. I take it very seriously.”

Even while flying the aircraft, he is able to leave his CEO badge in the office, his favorite thing about the A220 still comes from his more senior position as Chief Executive. The CEO states how the aircraft is environmentally friendly; how fuel-efficient it is; and the A220’s savings in CO2 emissions.

Martin has been working hard on this type rating since December 2019. ©️AirBaltic

Gauss’ Favorite Destinations


Gauss was also asked by Boon where he would fly the A220. He gave two different destinations. The first one was Sydney, Australia. This is because he missed the city. Martin and members of BT Crew took an A220 on an Asia Pacific tour on behalf of Airbus. Showcasing to world airlines the great capability of the A220.

The second destination he mentioned was New York, where he would require a layover to the full benefit of what the city has to offer.

Airbaltic taking part in a Asia Pacific Tour on behalf of Airbus ©️Airbaltic

Advantages for Gauss


Being an airline captain with his own airline would have several different benefits for the BT CEO. The key one is when he is faced with an aircraft problem. From the viewpoint of both a pilot and a senior executive, he would be able to look at it. Something which would not be feasible for a non-flying CEO. He was saying:

“With that comes all the knowledge about the daily operations. So, if something pops up at the management level, then, of course, there’s our senior vice president of flight operations… But then there’s also the CEO who has heard of it and or has seen it before. I think it is not a disadvantage. But you don’t have to be a pilot to be the CEO of an airline.”

Martin’s flight path when completing base training in October 2020 ©️Flightradar24

Flying Special Flights


When Gauss was approached by Boon and asked whether he would fly home any of the upcoming aircraft deliveries home to Riga, Latvia, he remained loyal to his Pilot colleagues, stating:

“It’s something I could do, of course, but I think that is something very special. And I would leave all the special flights to our Captains because I have done many special things in my life. I have had the privilege to run airlines as a CEO. So I would say, all these special flights, I will leave to the captains in our airline who should also enjoy these special flights.”

AirBaltic, legally organized as AS Air Baltic Company, is Latvia’s flag carrier and is headquartered at Riga International Airport in the municipality of Mārupe, near Riga. It is based at Riga International Airport (RIX), with Tallinn Airport (TLL) and Vilnius Airport (VNO) as additional bases.

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the airline briefly suspended operations on 17 March 2020 and only resumed flights on a limited basis as of 18 May 2020.


Featured image: AirBaltic