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  • Writer's pictureMr Wings

A "startup" airline that never flew for 30 years

It takes an airline months, or even a few years to get it up and running. While this may sound like a lengthy period of time, it was a whole lot longer and more painful for Baltia Airlines, a company that was founded in 1989 (which was three decades ago) and has yet to fly any passengers. But how can an airline take this long to start, and then never fly any passengers?

In 1989, a Latvian immigrant by the name of Igor Dimitrovsky filed paperwork to incorporate Baltia Airlines in the United States. The plan at the time was to fly non-stop to St.Petersburg, or Leningrad as it was called back then. Since the U.S and U.S.S.R were becoming friendlier toward one another, a treaty was signed to allow more non-stop flights between the two nations. Along with this, Baltia received certification to fly to Riga, Minsk, Tbilisi and Kiev, being the only U.S airline to do so.

The routes that Baltia Airlines were originally certified to fly.

Now that Baltia had routes and a plan, they just needed money. An investment banker was hired, and Baltia seemed to be on the right track. But, in 1991, there was a failed coup in the U.S.S.R, and considering the airline relied on routes to that one country, they didn't get enough funding.

After 5 years of just having an office at JFK, Batia finally accumulated enough money to get going. They set up at Terminal 4 and registered with the US Department of Transport. They also began their FAA certification process and they even bought two old Boeing 747-200s. This time, it really looked like the airline would finally take to the skies.

With most of the essentials taken care of, the airline just needed to list on the NASDAQ stock exchange to raise the final funds needed to take off. Unfortunately, they never received any money because of poor management and for 2 years, they didn't know if they were a public company or not.

After that, they spent the next decade scavenging for money, but never got enough. They also tried getting FAA certification seven times, and always failed due to problems with the evacuation slides. Despite this, they were quite ready for flights, even training cabin crews in 2014 on their sole 747 (they scrapped the other one.)

It was around this time that they (finally) realized that the US-St.Petersburg plan wouldn't work out. With 0 existing flights between the two cities, there just wasn't enough demand for it. Plus, with Baltia's fleet consisting of one of the biggest passenger jets in the sky, full flights would be quite a challenge.

After thinking about what to do, they eventually decided to change their route network. They decided to lease some small planes and fly from Baltimore to Trenton, Islip and Albany. And why did they decide to fly these routes? Baltimore (BAL), Trenton (T), Islip (I), and Albany (A). What does that spell? BALTIA. They chose their route network based off their name. No, I'm serious. That plan didn't go anywhere either, and by this point tens of millions of dollars had been invested in the company. They tried to purchase a smaller airline, Songbird Airways, which had a working fleet and routes but to no avail.

So, another new plan. They would rebrand as USGlobal Airways. But the Security and Exchange Commission got a hold of their plans, filed charges against executives and revoked their ability to sell stock. Despite that, they're still pushing forward. They have a website, executives, investors, and according to their website they strive to be "the United States' premier international and customer-centric air carrier."

In today's world, Baltia Airlines/USGlobal is quite unknown and the future really is uncertain for them. We don't really know whether they'll actually be able to fly, or if they'll remain grounded until they finally give up. With the pandemic currently blazing through the airline industry, who knows what'll happen?

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