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Overview of AirBaltic (Baltic Airlines)
AirBaltic (sometime called also as Baltic Airlines) 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 without unneeded long queues.
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 the 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.
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 a 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.
The Rating Based on Our Experinces
Many extra services were tried to be sold in numerous emails but no one told about the fleet and operational airline change.
Comfiness 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.
AirBaltic is often a cheap option to fly.
The rating would be a lot of better without the poor handling of the flight cancellation.
Aftermath: We Will Fly with Them Again
AirBaltic offers cheap flights for short routes inside Europe. You may not have luxurious experiences during the flight but airBaltic is known for the punctuality globally. Only that we are hoping with this airBaltic review, the problem-handling process of airBaltic will improve. We do hope with such improvements, and Finnoy Travel will later produce better airBaltic reviews, who knows!
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 review of airBaltic's Airbus A220-300 aircraft. You may also want to check the article about Primeclass Business lounge at Riga airport which is an inexpensive place to relax between flights.
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