RIGA, LATVIA — The Latvian flag carrier airBaltic welcomed its 39th Airbus A220-300 jet on the last day of 2022. The aircraft with registration YL-ABM was the seventh Airbus A220-300 aircraft delivery for the Riga-based operator last year.

At the moment, airBaltic is the largest operator of the type and expects to take delivery of 11 additional A220-300s. The airline holds purchase rights for 30 aircraft of the same type.

The Baltic carrier is the launch customer of the Airbus A220-300. The aircraft made its first scheduled flight on December 14, 2016, before Airbus bought the majority stakes in the program in 2018 and rebranded it as the A220. The plane was originally developed by the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier to compete with Brazil's Embraer in the 100 to 150-seat aircraft market. Bombardier launched the "C Series" program in 2008. The manufacturer built two variants, the CS100, and the larger CS300. The smaller CS100 variant entered service with Swiss Global Air Lines in 2016. The larger CS300 began operations with airBaltic the same year.

But things didn't go so well for Bombardier afterwards. Boeing filed a legal case against the Canadian airframer when it offered the aircraft to Delta Air Lines at an absurdly low price. The American planemaker claimed the Canadian government illegally subsidized Bombardier at the expense of Boeing. The U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a preliminary 300% import tariff on the aircraft, which also caused a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The case did pave the way for an agreement between Airbus and Bombardier. Airbus acquired 50.01% of the program and built an assembly line for the type in Mobile, Alabama, to avoid tariffs imposed by the U.S. government. Delta Air Lines became the first American operator of the Airbus A220. The airline currently operates 45 A220-100s and 14 A220-300s.

On the other hand, airBaltic has so far carried nearly 10 500 000 passengers with its A220-300s. Since May 2020, airBaltic has operated all its flights with a single aircraft type, the Airbus A220-300, thus minimizing the complexity and benefiting from the additional efficiency provided by the aircraft.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and following airspace prohibitions have forced the carrier to extend its routes. Typically, the airline’s A220s would have operated much of its flights through Russian airspace, but these days, the airline must avoid not only Russian airspace but also Belarus and Ukraine. 

Airbus claims the A220 is the greenest commercial aircraft in the world, as it is the first aircraft to have a transparent declaration of the life-cycle environmental impact, helping to reduce CO2 and NOX emissions by 20% and 50%, respectively.