As the new Lithuanian national carrier, Air Lituanica, launched a new route between Vilnius and Brussels last week, the airlines’ CCO Simonas Bartkus firmly rejects industry analysts who suggest the new airline will suffer the same fate as its bankrupt predecessors. The major stakeholder in the airline is the city of Vilnius with 83 %.
“Lithuanian Airlines (later renamed FlyLal) was privatized while carrying substantial debts” Bartkus reflects in an exclusive with airline website anna.aero. He adds that the combination of the massive debts and increased competition would have killed any airline operating in the region back in 2005, but also points out that Air Lithuanica is starting from a relatively small scale and without debts.
Already serving Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin, the airline is planning new routes from Vilnius to Prague, Moscow and Munic later this year and is operating two leased Embraer ERJ aircraft. The ambition is to fill the gap between low cost airlines and major European carriers, presently operating out of Vilnius and focusing on the regional flight segment. “We do not intend to become a market leader in Vilnius, such as airBaltic or Estonian Air, which account for 60 % and 40 % og the market share in Riga and Tallinn”, Bartkus reveals.Instead, the new Lithuanian airline sees it as a goal to become a “convenient choice” to reach Vilnius with a market share of 15-20 % of the Lithuanian market over its first three years.
Air Lituanica uses Estonian Air as their distribution partner and is leasing one if its aircraft from the Estonian airline. And Simonas Bartkus recognizes that the business strategies of the Lithuanian and Estonian carriers are almost identical, “so we see a number of areas for further cooperation” Bartkus says.