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Review: AirBaltic - an Inexpensive Riga Based Regional Airline with Moderate Customer Service

AirBaltic Dash Q400 at Helsinki Airport

AirBaltic is Latvian short haul airline. In the picture Dash Q400 is waiting for customers to board to the flight to Riga.

Overview of AirBaltic

AirBaltic is a Latvian airline which is based in Riga Airport. That means, it offers good connections to different destinations especially when travelling from Nordic or Baltic cities.

For Nordic and Baltic travellers, a connecting flight via Riga is a good choice. Unlike big airports which are usually crowded, Riga Airport is small and so connection times are usually short. You would expect connecting here to be done smoothly with unneeded long queues.

The gate area of Riga Airport

Riga Airport is clean and really cosy airport to connect between flights. Being a small airport, the good side for travellers is that, not much connection time is needed at the Riga Airport.

Majority of airBaltic's fleet is old but their turboprop planes are moderately new and modern. AirBaltic is also renewing its jet fleet so if you are lucky enough, you can fly by a brand new plane. But the most probable option is that you will fly on an old Boeing 737 plane.

Our Itinerary of the Reviewed Flights

We flew from Helsinki to Munich and back in July 2017. The outbound flight included a short connection at Riga Airport. We spent the whole break in great Primeclass Business lounge.

The first flight leg was operated by about 7 years old turboprop Dash Q400 plane. The second flight was unexpectedly operated by another airline on behalf of airBaltic. AirBaltic had wet leased a Fokker 100 jet plane from a Romanian airline.

AirBaltic Dash Q400 Cabin

Dash Q400 is a turboprob plane. It is comfortable to fly with and actually it has enough leg room also for tall people.

Our Opinions about the Outbound Flights of airBaltic

The flight from Helsinki to Riga was just a perfect. The plane left and arrived on time. The cabin of Dash Q400 was clean and comfortable. There was no free in-flight service but it was possible to buy snacks. Overall there was nothing to complain about this leg but nothing special either.

The second leg was operated by an Romanian aircraft and crew. The flight was meant to be airBaltic's own flight so this change was a big surprise. The cabin of 26 years old Fokker 100 was old and noisy. However, the staffs during the flight were friendly and behaved professionally.

Unexpected Problems on Our Flight Back to Finland

The flight back from Munich to Helsinki via Riga faced big problems. Just before the take-off from Munich, the captain announced that there was a technical fault in the plane. The plane had to taxi back to a stand.

Passengers were asked to wait at the airport terminal while the plane was being fixed. After some waiting, they announced that the flight to Riga is cancelled. That meant that our connection from Riga to Helsinki was lost because of technical problems impossible to fix very immediately.

AirBaltic's Way to Handle Challenges of Our Connections

Technical faults happen to every airline. Airlines are ranked based on how they handle challenges.

At Munich Airport, there was just one representative handling the flight-cancellation event. No one told us about our EU passenger rights. Communication was quite unclear and people were confused what to do.

AirBaltic's representative collected slowly a name list of passengers who needed hotel room. On another desk hotel vouchers were given to affected passengers of said flight.

Ground service staff gave a hotel voucher with food and taxi vouchers. AirBaltic had also made new flight bookings automatically for the next day so that the waiting time for many people became really long. We did not accept their proposal of 24 hours delay in Munich and we called directly to Latvia for help. After pushing small pressure to the customer service assistant, we got a morning flight by Lufthansa to Helsinki.

We also need to mention that taxi vouchers did not have any real value. Taxi drivers refused to accept them. In the hotel, getting any food was impossible as the kitchens were already closed in contrary to airBaltic's promise of dinner for us at the hotel. Any other food vouchers were not given. The only good thing was that, the hotel of choice they have provided was of good quality and nicely located in Erding village.

Shortly said the handling of the flight cancellation was somehow poor. It was slow and poorly communicated.

Our Compensation Claim

Even though airBaltic did not remind us about EU passenger rights, we sent them a compensation claim after arrival to Helsinki. We claimed the delay compensation stated by EU261 rights and the food and the taxi costs we had paid ourselves. AirBaltic rejected almost the whole application with some excuses. We have asked airBaltic an explanation for this unacceptable behavior but they have not sent a response either up to this time.

We had to file a conciliation process in Germany and after many weeks, airBaltic contacted us and promised to pay all compensations we are entitled for that delayed flight.

Aftermath: Will We Fly Again by AirBaltic?

Yes, we will!

AirBaltic offers cheap flight with short routes inside Europe. You may not have luxurious flight but they are are known for their punctuality globally. Only that we are hoping with this review, the problem-handling process of airBaltic will improve, who knows!

Our Rating

Pre-Flight Communication

Many extra services were tried to be sold in numerous emails but no one told about the fleet and operational airline change.

Comfort of Cabins

Cabins are okay but especially Boeing 737 planes are old. Romanian Fokker 100 was not any better.

Onboard Customer Service

All crew behaved extremely professionally and they were so friendly. This is the best part of airBaltic.

Ticket Prices

AirBaltic is often a cheap option to fly.

Overall Rating

The rating would be a lot of better without the poor handling of the flight cancellation.

Final Words

AirBaltic is not the best airline in the Europe but the price-to-quality level is good. You get moderately good service with cheap prices.

Our review somehow failed because of the operating airline changed for the second leg and the flights back were cancelled. Finally all problems were solved and we got compensations stated by EU261 regulation.

Read also our article what to do if an airline cancels your flights. Please check also our article about Primeclass Business lounge at Riga airport which is an inexpensive place to relax between flights.

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Jaa



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