Full article in PDF format
Martin Gauss is a man who understands only too well the perils of running a state-owned airline. In 2012, shortly after he stepped down as chief executive of Malév Hungarian Airlines, the European Union ordered his former employer to repay €130 million of illegal state aid. Unable to do so, Malév, one of Europe’s oldest flag-carriers, ceased operations.
Its demise came just three months after Gauss had agreed to steer another troubled eastern European flag-carrier: Air Baltic. Within one year, history was repeating itself and Brussels was launching a new investigation into the Latvian airline.
The similarities, however, end there.
Whereas Malév relied on subsidies from its government owner to stay afloat – violating competition laws in the process – Air Baltic deployed private-sector efficiency and commercial sustainability to get its house in order. The EU’s two-year investigation failed to unearth any wrongdoing by the state-owned carrier, clearing the way for a bold new future in Latvia’s picturesque capital Riga...