Bombardier's CSeries relaunch rides on AirBaltic bailout vote

Wed Dec 2, 2015 2:09pm EST
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By Gederts Gelzis and Tim Hepher

RIGA/PARIS (Reuters) - Sleek in blue and white livery under a hangar spotlight at Riga airport, a single Bombardier (BBDb.TO: Quote) CSeries jet symbolizes a rebirth for both the Latvian flag carrier and the planemaker.

Both companies are looking for a relaunch based on the economics of lightweight jets, whose lower emissions appeal to a country with Europe's first Green head of state.

But the airline's growth hangs in the balance as Latvia's parliament prepares to vote on an 80-million-euro lifeline needed to pay for the jets, with implications for Bombardier and the last Baltic flag carrier.

Bombardier can ill afford to lose its third-largest airline customer for the 110-130 seater as it recovers from delays with the help of its own Quebec lifeline.

But a recent visit to Riga to display the plane has been swamped by a political row, as the country debates whether it can afford to recapitalize the airline.

"We really need to try ways to strengthen our national company, so that it can expand its market in the region," Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis told Reuters.

"I hope parliament will vote (in favor)."

On the eve of Thursday's vote, prospects for approval rose after the government blocked proposals for AirBaltic to invest separately in Superjet regional planes from Russia's Sukhoi, whose parent is covered by EU sanctions.   Continued...

Bombardier's CS300 Aircraft, showing its' Pratt & Whitney engine in the foreground, sits in the hangar prior to its' test flight in Mirabel February 27, 2015.   REUTERS/Christinne Muschi