Although Kristaps Lapsa joined airBaltic less than a year ago, he has been involved in one of the most exciting events in the airline’s history – the overhaul of its fleet and the phasing in of the new Bombardier CS300 jet aircraft. In this interview, Lapsa outlines the challenges of working from two different continents and reveals what positive changes passengers can expect.
How long have you been with airBaltic and what is your background in the airline industry?
I joined airBaltic at the beginning of this year as the airline’s CSeries fleet project manager. Before that, I worked for 14 years at the Riga airport in various capacities. I started off as a cargo handler, then worked as a check-in agent, flight coordinator, shift foreman and aviation client relations head, to name just a few of the many positions I have held.
Maybe I should have asked you what you haven’t done in aviation?
Yes, I really have seen the industry from many different vantage points. I was really excited at the chance to help phase in the new CS300 at airBaltic. I knew that I would have to deal with many challenges. The job is particularly interesting because we are the first airline in the world to phase in this new aircraft. We are starting completely from scratch, and this means that we will be able to consult other airlines that use the CS300 in the future.
What do your responsibilities entail?
We are coordinating the introduction of the CS300 into airBaltic’s fleet. That involves everything: starting from the paperwork and ending with the training of the ground crew, flight attendants and pilots. It involves signing contracts, planning out marketing activities, coordinating test flights and many other things to ensure that airBaltic can successfully conduct commercial passenger flights with a brand new aircraft model.
Can you describe the cooperation between airBaltic and Bombardier in the leadup to the first commercial flights with the CS300 ?
We communicate with Bombardier on a daily basis by e-mail and by phone. I fly frequently to Montreal, where the planes are being manufactured and from where several aspects of their entry into service are being coordinated. It can be quite challenging to implement an international project from two different parts of the world. When we get together for our morning meetings at airBaltic, our colleagues in Canada are still sleeping because we are seven time zones ahead of them. We start getting in touch with the people at Bombardier at about 3 PM Riga time, when it is still morning in Montreal. Since our work day at airBaltic might end just a couple of hours after the work day of our colleagues in North America has begun, direct communication by phone between our two companies occurs in a restricted time frame – day in and day out.
What are the main advantages of the new CS300 aircraft for passengers and for airBaltic itself?
Passengers will be really surprised at how quiet the engines are. That is a huge plus. I had seen countless marketing booklets that touted the merits of the new aircraft, but only when I got to see the first takeoffs and landings from the tarmac did I really grasp how true these claims really were. Passengers will also appreciate the larger seats and luggage bins as well as the larger windows, which will give them better views as they fly up above the clouds. The biggest gain for the airline is greater fuel economy, which will lead to lower ticket prices for our passengers. BO