airBaltic (BT, Riga) chief executive Martin Gauss has reiterated that longer-range Airbus jets, specifically the A321-200NY(XLR), continue to be of interest to the airline at some point in the future as it considers more distant destinations rather than acquire widebody aircraft.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, airBaltic currently operates a single-type fleet of thirty-six A220-300s, with 14 more on order (and options for 30 more), and is wet-leasing in extra capacity - currently two A319-100s (from Carpatair and Hi Fly Malta) and a B737-400 (from Air Horizont) - to cope with resurgent summer demand while it wet-leases out some of its A220s during the summer 2022 season.

Telling Airways Magazine in an interview that the A220 has been “the right choice for airBaltic’s fleet renewal” because of its fuel efficiency and it being “an overall excellent flying experience” for customers, at the tail-end of the 2021-22 winter season it received its first A220-300 certified to operate up to 149 seats, as opposed to 145 seats previously.

“Going forward, also the existing fleet will be adjusted to use the additional capacity, which will further drive the efficiency of our operations,” he said. “airBaltic plans to unblock the additional seats on its entire fleet by summer 2023.”

The A321neo(XLR), meanwhile, performed its first flight on June 15, but Airbus conceded in a recent financial report that it would enter into service in early 2024, not in 2023, due to delays in certification. According to Airways Magazine, Gauss said that the A321neo(XLR) was an option for the near future, but talking to Flight Global last month he said it “is a very interesting aircraft if we look into the longer-term future.”

The current fleet enables direct flights from Riga to destinations such as Dubai Int'l, but the XLR would boost the Baltics’ lack of long-haul connectivity and “fly even longer though it’s still a little aircraft. That’s the only type to be able to do something in the future that fits our model,” he told Flight Global.

An order would occur after the carrier launches its initial public offering (IPO) in the coming years and pays off its Covid-associated state aid, he added.

Gauss said in June 2019 that airBaltic could potentially use the then-newly-announced XLR version of the A321-200neo to launch transatlantic and other long-haul flights in the future.