Lithuania Achieves FAA Category 1, Poised to Expand Air Operations in the US

By Ivan PetrenkoApr 17, 2024 10:30 AMNews
A large jetliner sitting on top of an airport tarmac
A large jetliner sitting on top of an airport tarmac. Source: unsplash

Lithuania's aviation sector received a significant boost as it secured Category 1 status from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a crucial upgrade that allows the country’s airlines to conduct flights to, from, and within the United States. This new rating, the result of nearly three years of diligent efforts by the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport and Communications and associated bodies, marks a major milestone in enhancing the competitiveness of Lithuanian aviation services on the global stage.

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Marius Skuodis, emphasized that this achievement would create favorable conditions for airlines based in Lithuania to expand their operations across the Atlantic, potentially filling gaps in airline capacity, particularly in the United States.

Although Lithuania lacks commercial airlines, it hosts a range of operators that specialize in the Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, and Insurance (ACMI) sector. These operators traditionally lease their aircraft to other global airlines, and with the new Category 1 status, they are ideally positioned to alleviate some of the current capacity shortages faced by the US market. This shortage has been exacerbated by delays in aircraft deliveries and the ongoing need for inspections and part replacements in certain models.

Currently, Lithuania has ten active airlines, primarily engaged in the ACMI and charter markets. These include notable entities such as DAT LT, KlasJet, TransAviaBaltika, GetJet Airlines, Heston Airlines, and Avion Express, with the latter two being part of prominent aviation groups. Collectively, these operators manage a fleet that includes Airbus A320/A321ceo, Boeing 737s, ATR 42/72s, and BAe Jetstreams.

Interestingly, of the 75 aircraft listed, 18 currently do not have an ACMI contract, indicating available capacity that could be offered to U.S. carriers. This includes several wide-body aircraft, which are already servicing international routes like those operated by Uzbekistan Airways. However, it’s noted that some of these aircraft are in storage or undergoing maintenance.

The path forward for Lithuanian operators includes navigating the regulatory environment of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to commence operations. The Ministry reported that applications are already underway, with one airline having submitted its paperwork and others expected to follow suit.

This development not only opens up new opportunities for Lithuanian aviation but also offers a potential solution to the pressing fleet capacity issues faced by U.S. airlines, promising a win-win scenario in international air travel and transport logistics.

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