France pushes Airbus fleet-renewal option to Latvia

French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said Monday he had passed on to fellow EU member state Latvia a bid from Airbus to modernise the fleet operated by its flag-carrier airBaltic.

"Naturally I am happy to support the offer made by Airbus, and am confident airBaltic will choose the offer that best meets its requirements," Mariani told journalists after a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Transport Minister Aivis Ronis.

"Airbus provides the possibility to make a European choice," Mariani added.

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Few details of the Airbus offer were released, though Mariani did say that it included the possibility of offset compensation and additional staff training to encourage airBaltic to switch from the Boeing-made planes which iy operated on its main international routes.

The size and timescale of any potential deal was a matter for the Latvian government, Mariani underlined.

Ronis told AFP: "AirBaltic needs to change some of its planes in the near future and will have to make a decision in February. In the long term it needs to fully renew its fleet."

"We are a European country and European choices are always important to us," Ronis said.

Currently airBaltic's fleet comprises two Boeing 757s and 14 Boeing 737s as well as 8 Bombardier Q400s and 10 Fokker 50 aircraft.

The airline was founded in 1995, four years after Latvia regained independence from the crumbling Soviet Union.

Since the nation of two million joined the European Union in 2004, airBaltic has won a reputation as a low-cost regional force.

It has just emerged from a bitter ownership battle which resulted in the state upping its stake in the company on December 1 from 52 percent to 99 percent.

The buyout took place to save the airline from possible insolvency following the collapse of two of its main creditors, Baltic banks Krajbanka and Snoras.

© 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jan 23, 2012