Latvian carrier airBaltic is planning to open its first aircraft bases outside of the Baltics after 2020 and is nearing a decision on its Airbus A220 options.

AirBaltic has 50 Airbus A220s on order, plus 30 options, which the airline will use to replace its current fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s. Over the coming days, airBaltic’s 14th A220-300 will join the fleet.

Speaking at the Aviation Club in London on Nov. 8, airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss said 36 of the A220s will be used for direct replacements. The remaining 14 firm A220s will be used to grow the fleet by two aircraft per year, over the next seven years.

Gauss said that, under the current business plan, airBaltic is expecting to fly all 80 A220s and it is very likely the 30 options will be firmed from next year. The 11 remaining 737s will be phased out by the end of 2020 and the Q400s will be returned to their lessors around 2022-23.

“We will continue until we have 50 aircraft in the Baltics and thereafter we will look at bases outside the Baltics. This will happen beyond 2020,” Gauss said.

AirBaltic has no bases outside of the Baltics. The Riga-based airline operates 12 routes from Tallinn and six routes from Vilnius, but Riga remains its only true hub.

When asked by ATW whether airBaltic could be interested in troubled leisure group Small Planet Airlines, which has subsidiaries in Germany, Lithuania and Poland, Gauss replied that charter operations now make up only 3% of airBaltic’s business, making it more interesting to other operators. AirBaltic’s own focus is now on scheduled flying.

AirBaltic itself, which is 80% state-owned, remains open to investment. Gauss said any equity would be used to put more aircraft on its balance sheet, rather than using sale and leasebacks.

Victoria Moores