In aviation, safety has always been, is, and will continue to be everyone’s top priority. With the global pandemic severely disrupting flying and our travelling habits for over a year now, we have launched an initiative to talk to the air carriers flying to and from our airports.
In the first interview from our new "Five pre-flight questions" series, we talk to the CEO of airBaltic, Martin Gauss, on how the airline has adapted, what additional safety measures have been put in place, and what the upcoming Summer season holds for us.
In the aviation industry, safety has always been the top priority. How has your airline adapted to the changed working environment and what measures have been put in place?
When the pandemic started, airBaltic successfully implemented various additional health measures and followed all recommendations and restrictions issued by local authorities. Safety and health of our passengers, our employees and the society stand above all.
We are performing additional cleaning and disinfection procedures. airBaltic passengers need to wear a protective face mask all time on board during flights. You can find additional information on the new safety measures at airBaltic website.
Passengers are strongly suggested to check the travel regulations and airport restrictions on the official websites or with local embassies before travelling. Regulations are changing rapidly and vary per country, therefore always make sure you have the latest information to have a smooth journey.
How does, in terms of health safety, travelling by plane differ from other modes of transportation?
According to the World Health Organization, there is minimal risk of any communicable disease being transmitted onboard an aircraft. The quality of cabin air is carefully controlled and is recirculated with ventilation rates that provide a total change of air 20-30 times per hour. Most modern aircraft, including our Airbus A220-300, use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) type filters that provide the best level of filtration currently available for recirculated cabin air.
For many people, who need to travel for essential reasons, aviation today is the safest mode of transportation. Aviation industry professionals, including us at airBaltic, are used to work in an increased security environment. That we have once again proven over the past year when new measures in order to ensure health and safety of our employees and passengers were promptly introduced.
In the Baltics, some people still fear that aviation contributes to the spread of the virus, while various studies show no correlation between the cases of infected people arriving in the country and the spread of the virus nationally. Already in October 2020, the European Commission called for member states to restore free movement of people. Aviation has adjusted to the new reality well, and flying today is clearly the safest mode of transportation.
Before Covid appeared on the scenery, we were used to booking trips for the longer term, for example, six months in advance. But due to the abundance of different travel regulations among countries, planning a trip became far more challenging. Could you tell us how your booking process has changed since, and what measures have you put in place for people to feel more confident while purchasing a flight ticket?
airBaltic actively informs its passengers about the latest safety measures on its website and social media accounts as well as via e-mail and, in certain cases, also SMS. Passengers are always encouraged to familiarise themselves with the latest regulations, however, in case of any uncertainties, can always contact the company.
To provide additional flexibility that passengers of today are seeking, last summer airBaltic introduced new ticket types. Following passenger demand, airBaltic introduced a new Green Plus ticket type primarily suited for those in search for the most affordable prices, but who also require a checked baggage, which is included in the reservation.
In case a flight has been cancelled due to Covid-19 less than 14 days before departure, airBaltic offers its passengers to rebook the flight to another date, to reach their desired destinations via another flight. In addition, passengers may also decide to request a full refund in a form of gift voucher or bank transfer.
There is this saying in aviation that no matter the weather, the sun always shines above the clouds. How does your airline see air travel in the upcoming Summer of 2021?
People miss travelling, and, just like we saw last summer, when the borders were open again and leisure travel was possible, demand recovered quite quickly. The same will happen when it is safe to lift restrictions. Based on different recovery scenarious, we have already prepared for this summer season and we will offer more than 75 destinations from Riga. Once we resume stable and regular operations, we will again be able to promote Baltic’s economy and thus helping in supporting local businesses.
Finally, what would be your message to your current and future passengers?
The key components that will make future travel possible again are vaccines, health and safety measures, as well as shared responsibility and solidarity. Today, when leisure travel is not possible, we still continue to provide essential connectivity to all three Baltic capitals, by providing multiple direct flights from Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn to major European business centres and transit hubs. Let’s stay healthy and be sure – our dreams of travelling will come true soon.