New JFK-based airline Baltia to serve five Baltic region cities… will it survive?

Someone I follow on Twitter posted a link today to an informative and actually quite funny look back at startup airlines that failed since airlines were deregulated in 1978 here in the United States. It’s definitely worth a read and brought back some memories since I flew on one of them, Kiwi International Air Lines, on a roundtrip from Orlando to Atlanta. (Rick, are you reading?)

After reading through it and noting some of the over the top grand ideas a few of these startups had, I returned to my day and later noticed quite a few tweets from a forthcoming new startup, Baltia Air Lines. Their website states they plan “to start flight operations in the Fall of 2011,†but are currently still awaiting FAA certification.

a yellow rooster with grey lettersThe carrier intends to begin service with nonstop flights from New York’s JFK Airport to St. Petersburg, Russia (LED) with Boeing 747 aircraft, eventually expanding to include additional nonstops to Riga, Moscow, Minsk and Kiev. Based on this page, they’ve acquired two 747s so far (appearing to be -200 series), both from cargo operators.

St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city and apparently houses offices of several major U.S. corporations, including Coca-Cola and Ford. This page on Baltia’s website states New York brings more than one third of all traffic to and from Russia (really?) with a large amount of U.S. passenger and cargo traffic making the service attractive to the airline.

I love their description of planned cabin services, especially in First Class:

a white text on a white backgroundI have a feeling they’re relying on the reported lucrative cargo market between the two cities ($1 billion annually) and hoping that adding passenger traffic on what would be the only nonstop JFK-LED will reap financial gain. It all sounds quite nice, but I hope they have some headway into securing both cargo and passenger corporate contracts. Those will be the critical factors for new service in such a market, especially for a no-name carrier.

I cringed at their chosen name for a frequent flyer program:

a yellow letter on a white backgroundEek. I definitely wouldn’t go with “Freeloaders†as a name. Would you want that card in your wallet? Terrible decision there. Their chosen logo is the rooster, which is apparently a symbol of reliability, punctuality and dependability. They also point to European folklore with its notoriety as a good luck charm sitting “atop many spires and buildings in New York City…†and all throughout Europe.

I don’t know… I have my serious doubts. They’re promising a lot early in their web and Twitter marketing without even beginning to fly. I’m not convinced of either their business plan or ability to follow through with the service they promise. Will they be added to Boyd Group International’s list of failed carriers? One thing going for them so far is they at least have a couple of airplanes seemingly ready, now only awaiting an operating certificate to be able to fly them.

This, then, is my open invitation to Baltia to prove me wrong. Show me you’ll follow through with the service you’re promising. Do you have a solid contingent of secured cargo and passenger contracts? Is a 747-200 fuel efficient enough given the current cost of Jet A? Will a three-cabin configuration really work for the JFK-LED market? Can you afford to devote the upper deck to only a lounge and dining area?

I’m eagerly monitoring your launch and truly wish you the best of success.


    • Hmm, what would be appropriate elite levels for “Freeloader?”

      Couch crasher is good… they’d probably go with Silver, Gold & Platinum.

      I still wouldn’t want a “Freeloader” card in my wallet!

  1. They came out with this scheme a couple of years ago. Still nothing. Except for an (apparent) Twitter presence, nothing has changed with them in at least 2 years.

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