Air Baltic to operate returned 757s over summer

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Air Baltic will deploy two Boeing 757s primarily on routes to Estonia and Lithuania over the summer season, chief executive Martin Gauss says.

The 757-200s, which are painted in Air Baltic's livery, were until recently wet leased to Cambodia's Tonlé Sap Airlines.

They will be used to operate flights to Tallinn in Estonia and Vilnius in Lithuania, as well as being occasionally deployed to Paris, Barcelona and possibly some other European destinations.

"Until we find a new wet-lease partner, we will deploy these aircraft on high-density routes as needed," Gauss tells Flightglobal. "One of the aircraft is in [Latvia's capital] Riga already, and the other one is being returned."

He says turnaround plan ReShape still envisages transitioning to an all-Bombardier fleet of Dash 8 Q400s and CSeries CS300s, and that Air Baltic is "actively seeking" a replacement wet-lease customer for the 757s.

But operating the mid-size jets on an interim basis "makes a lot of sense", Gauss continues, as some summer routes are already overbooked and "we have them sitting on the ground anyway".

"If we didn't use the 757s we would have had to send two 737s in parallel to Tallinn," the chief executive notes.

Separately, Air Baltic has used its cash reserves to buy four previously-leased Boeing 737-500s. This will give the airline flexibility in the event that its CS300 order is delayed, Gauss says.

Air Baltic is no longer considering replacing its 737-300s with 737-700s on short-term leases, he adds, as the newer models are "too expensive".

The airline operates a fleet of eight Q400s, seven 737-300s, four 737-500s and three Fokker 50s, Gauss says, though two other 737s remain in its possession. The Fokker 50s will be retired by August, after four additional Q400s arrive on 12-year operating leases.

The Boeing fleet will then gradually be withdrawn as Air Baltic takes delivery of 10 CS300s, which will begin arriving at the end of 2015.