Compromise is the key to success in any relationship, says Svetlana Abaškina. And it is worth listening to what this charming, goal-oriented and knowledgeable woman has to say. Thanks to her efforts, airBaltic has expanded its partnership network with some of the world’s most influential airlines.

Can you describe a typical day at work for us?

I am often abroad on business trips, because my work involves signing agreements with airBaltic’s foreign partners – mainly airlines and airports in various countries. However, I also spend a lot of time at my Riga office. There are only three people in my department, but the work that we do involves a great deal of responsibility.

What are you and your team responsible for?

I have two partnership managers who work under my direction. One deals with airBaltic’s cooperation partners in the East, while the other works with our partners in the Western markets. There are about 200 airlines in the world and even more airports. Our department is the place through which airBaltic
communicates and establishes cooperation links with its partners. As a result, about 20% of our airline’s revenues come from airBaltic products and services that are sold through partnerships.

I have heard your colleagues say that they are proud of what you and your team have done.

This year we have signed three important cooperation agreements: one with the Romanian airline TAROM, through which we opened a new destination in Bucharest; another with Aegean Airlines in Greece to service our destinations in Athens and Larnaca; and the third with British Airways through its London
Gatwick hub. I am particularly pleased about our new partnership with British Airways, which is one of the most influential airlines in the world. It doesn’t take cooperation agreements lightly and expects its partners to operate in accordance with the highest standards in the industry. I felt immensely satisfied to
hear British Airways representatives compliment us on our high level of professionalism. That praise applies not only to my department. We also work closely with other airBaltic departments, including network planning, revenue management, ground operations, quality, revenue accounting and flight support.

Who gains from airBaltic’s expanded cooperation network?

Customers obtain an expanded list of worldwide destinations to choose from and business passengers can get more frequent connections to various destinations. Our airline, for its part, gains better access to potential customers in other places. For example, while airBaltic is the leading airline in the Baltic countries, it is not very well known in other parts of the world. Cooperation with other airlines increases our exposure, marketing and distribution power.

What personal characteristic have you developed in this particular work position?

I have always liked to expand my knowledge and learn new things. I also enjoy sharing my experience with others. I have never dreamed about heading a large factory, for example, because my management style is oriented to heading small teams that work hard to fulfil the goals of a company. I view myself as an aviation professional. If I had to name what distinguishes a professional from a non-professional, then aside from competence, I would mention talent and a passion to work.

Incidentally, my first university degree is connected with numbers and the exact sciences. That helped to develop my sense of logical thinking, but after I got into the aviation business I realised that I really like working with people and that is something that I get to do in this position. Every day I meet people from all over the world, each with their own cultural background. That demands the ability to adapt on my part, which hasn’t always been easy. This position has helped me to improve as a person and mature, for aside from adaptive skills, partnerships also involve the search for a compromise. If you are unable to reach a compromise, then you can’t work effectively and reach your goals.

You must be very well-informed about trends in the aviation industry. What seems of particular interest to you right now?

It’s clear that low-cost airlines created a revolution in commercial aviation. Its effects began to be felt in Latvia about ten years ago. As a result, airBaltic had to find new ways to develop and be competitive. That led to the hybrid airline concept, which involves taking the best practices both from traditional network airlines and low-cost carriers. Speaking of the future, the day might come when passengers no longer have to check in for their flights. Unless there are compelling reasons for keeping the current check-in system, I think that in our current digital era it might be feasible to end the practice.

You travel quite a bit. What do you do to feel at home during your flights and business trips?

I like to travel and am a cosmopolitan person, so I don’t feel uncomfortable in foreign countries. By the way, aside from the opportunity for further career growth and education, the chance to travel was what made me choose to accept the offer to work at airBaltic. I have been working for the airline since it was founded, when there were only five or six direct flights from Riga. That means that I had to spend a lot of time in airport transit zones between connecting flights. I have had some of my most interesting meetings with people in transit lounges. There have been times when I have chatted with someone for only
a half-hour and realised that this person who lives on the other side of the world thinks a lot like I do. I don’t try to create a home environment when I travel. Instead, I try to learn something new about the place that I’m visiting. I might go to an art gallery or learn a new food recipe or buy something from an interesting local fashion brand.

What are your favourite travel destinations?

Above all I am fascinated by people. I like glittering and cosmopolitan personalities who remember their origins and culture. I look for the same traits in cities. Plus I also have another requirement. I like it very much if a city is located beside a body of water – be it a river, a lake or the sea – so I can go for walks along its shores. That’s why I like Rome and Paris, Saint Petersburg and Kiev, Nice and Bari. There is another city that I’m always glad to return to: Jūrmala, where I have lived most of my life.

December is a holiday month. What is important for you during this period?

In the hectic pace of everyday life, it’s hard to find the time to just spend some quiet moments at home. That’s why I like it when people remember their loved ones during the holidays and slow down their pace a bit. It’s nice when people become more open, when they take the time to just talk with each other, to visit their friends and relatives and to invite guests over to their homes. The sense of calm that comes when you slow down also helps to bring in a cheery holiday feeling, which is very necessary during this dark time of the year. It’s also important to say thank you, which is why I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues and cooperation partners for all of their support during the year 2014, and to wish everybody a happy 2015!

Have you made any resolutions for the New Year?

There was a time when I did, but then I came to understand that you have to work with yourself every day of the year. Usually at the end of the year I reflect over what went well during the previous 12 months and set myself new goals, which are usually connected with my personal and professional development.