airBaltic (BT, Riga) will further reduce capacity for the coming three months due to the impact of the coronavirus on demand, while staff numbers will be “temporarily reduced” by up to 350 people, it said in a statement dated March 12.

The company has been forced to cut employee numbers, mainly crew, by 100 people, adding to 250 announced in a separate statement the previous day, which were also primarily crew members. It said it would “seek voluntary solutions, unpaid leave, non-extension of probation time, and termination”.

“Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis is escalating. At the moment we are left with no choice - in these extraordinary times we must take extraordinary measures so that our company is ready to rebound once this global crisis is over,” said the Latvian flag carrier’s chief executive, Martin Gauss.

“There is no question that eventually, the situation will improve, and airBaltic will return to its growth strategy. I am grateful to our team and the Latvian people for supporting us in these difficult days,” he added.

Gauss also told Latvian broadcaster LTV that plans to convert options for additional A220-300s would have been postponed and that airBaltic “will buy new aircraft after the crisis”.

The airline has cancelled a total of 580 flights between March 9 and May 31 due to falling demand.

Amongst these, “due to health and safety reasons as well as actions taken by authorities” it has suspended all flights to Italy and Israel - from Riga to Milan Malpensa and Verona at least until the end of April and to Rome Fiumicino and Tel Aviv Ben Gurion until the end of May. The opening of a new direct route from Tallinn Lennart Meri to Rome has been delayed until June 1.

The airline claimed in its March 12 statement that it “has a well-developed crisis plan for various economic and operational crises in the company. Since February 28, an action group C19AG has been established at the company, which regularly evaluates the latest situation and takes the necessary measures.”

News of the further 100 layoffs came shortly after airBaltic executives and Latvian President Egils Levits opened a new hangar in Liepaja, western Latvia, on March 12, construction on which began in August 2019.

Latvian transport minister Tālis Linkaits has meanwhile told Latvian news agency LETA that airBaltic was in a strong position in the industry and would not need financial support from the state.