Earlier this week, I sat down with Martin Gauss, CEO of Air Baltic. Air Baltic is a state-owned Latvian carrier and the country’s flag carrier, with its head office on the grounds of Riga International Airport.
The airline operates flights to destinations across Europe, and to some in Central Asia, and the Middle East. During our meeting, we discussed the performance of the Airbus A220 (former Bombardier CS300), the ongoing Pratt & Whitney engine issues, the airlines’ relationship with struggling UAE flag carrier Etihad Airways, worldwide geopolitics, and the challenge of higher fuel prices.
I’ll be sharing full details of our wide-ranging conversation over the coming days, starting today — with Gauss’ views on Britain’s upcoming exit from the European Union.
Air Baltic operates two routes to the UK, from Riga and Tallin to London Gatwick. The airline codeshares with UK flag carrier, British Airways, and Gauss tells me “London flights are traditionally very strong.”
When discussing Brexit, and how Britain is now actively preparing to leave the European Union bloc, even ‘without a deal’, Gauss said “The UK should ask their people to vote on Brexit again — whether they like that or not. I think that with such a tight decision, you can go back and say ‘let’s ask again if the people really want to go through with this’ because now the British people seem to understand what that really means.” Gauss adds “You might see a completely different result, and then they could just stop Brexit and say ‘we’ll stay”
Commenting on the UK’s negotiations with the EU regarding aviation, Gauss said “It’s the job of the politicians to find a solution, execute it and do something. Britain has taken a vote to leave the EU, they have not taken a vote to stop aviation”
Air Baltic is an EU airline, given Latvia held a referendum on European Union membership in 2003, where just over two-thirds of voters voted ‘Yes’ to join the EU, leading to Latvia becoming a full member on 1 May 2004.
However, Gauss notes that if Britain does indeed proceed with the exit of the EU, the impact on Air Baltic “will be minor.” He said, “If Britain does exit the EU, I believe that nothing will change, and we will continue flying to the UK as we always have done. Can we really believe that one morning there will be no flights to the UK?”
Air Baltic’s CEO’s views on Brexit are ‘in line’ with the majority of EU airline CEO’s views, who predict Brexit will have a negative impact on the European aviation market, and specifically on the UK itself.
Gauss did note that he thinks the impact on Air Baltic will be minor, but the same cannot be said for British aviation companies. Just recently, the UK’s aviation regulator the CAA sought a joint no-deal transition plan with its EU counterpart the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) — but it was rejected by EASA. It means that with just months to go before the UK leaves the EU, the two major aviation bodies are yet to begin formal discussions.