Thursday, July 19, 2007

airBaltic offers pre-paid mobile phone services

air Baltic, the Latvian carrier partly owned by SAS, has quietly started offering prepaid mobile phone cards, including a SIM card and number, to travelers abroad. The service offers free incoming calls from Latvia in 19 countries (including Ireland) and discounted calls from abroad to Latvia.
The service is run for the airline by SIA Telecom Discount, a small alternative Latvian telco. Just how they do it -- whose network is used-- I have still to find out (I want to get this news out ahead of anyone else, as air Baltic hasn't announced this to the press, only put it in a customer newsletter).
Since I don't think I want to get a new mobile number to use just for a weekend in, say Stockholm, mainly because I don't want to SMS like 150+ contacts and get everyone confused, I think this card is mainly aimed at the Latvians in Ireland and UK market. Think about it -- when you let everyone know you are off to O'Leary's mushroom farm, you also announce your airBaltic number and get incoming calls for free.
My sources say that the next step could be the sale of cheap (subsidized) phones by Telecom Discount bundled with the air Baltic card, so that emigrants could have a "call and be called from Latvia" phone when they hit the ground in Ireland or wherever. Sounds like a reasonable business model.


Bleveland said...

Summary: This is an Estonian mobile subscriber.
If still interested in more details, please continue to read a few comments on this "news" (not meant to be rude, the news is just not so new anymore) ;-)

I have been travelling on a weekly basis with AirBaltic since the end of May and the card was already offered then (roughly 2 months ago). So this might still be news for Ryan's frequent flyers ;-)
No idea when AirBaltic started offering this card though...

I was right away interested since I anyway use to grab a prepaid card from one of the local providers available during my visits in Latvia. Given the fact that I would be commuting between Sweden and Latvia this would be the ultimate opportunity to use ONE private number during the summer time. Incoming calls wouldn't cost me anything in Sweden either. To good to be true isn't it?

It sure was. When I had been reading the last and smallest letters in the folder it became clear to me what the major drawback was: the number of the SIM card would be an Estonian mobile number (+372 !). In other words hardly interesting for my Latvian and Swedish contacts with my wife on the first place. I didn't check out the actual rates, but I guess it would be counted as an international call and I all of a sudden I saw a huge heap of scratched prepaid upgrade vouchers in my imagination. That was not very tempting for me. I remember using the card for local calls in the countries mentioned was not very attractive either (see also the link: starting rates at 39 ct (€) – mind still very reasonable before the new EU regulations for roaming calls are fully implemented later this autumn).

Get me right, I still think this is a great initiative from AirBaltic! A new way of approaching (potential) users of mobile telephones abroad. If the number would have been Latvian I would have been a customer already. So far I leave that honour to other AirBaltic (Estonians ?) customers. It is probably interesting for people frequently visiting the Baltic's in the need of a Baltic number anyway otherwise facing the high roaming fees for outgoing calls and now getting the free incoming calls as an additional bonus. If they do not receive many calls and / or their customers would anyway need to phone an international mobile subscriber than it probably isn't a big deal to phone to an Estonian number instead of say a German..

The offer as I have seen it on the plane isn't so bad if I remember correctly; you need to pay € 10 for the card and the entire sum would be your prepaid credit. Not too sure about this though...

If you would be on the Riga airport you can just grab a folder about this at the AirBaltic information desk next to Narvesen in one of the corners of the departure hall. I guess also the other AirBaltic travel offices as for instance the one in Berga Bazars can help you out.

Bleveland said...

EDIT: All the info is actually in the link to the AirBaltic provided in Juris' post:


xpoc;) said...

...ok, I found out about the "+372-detour" on the FAQ link in the bottom. Sorry for not paying attention Juri :-)

xpoc;) said...

what? how can my correction be posted before my first and initial comment? Det luktar fisk :))

Bleveland said...

"...ok, I found out about the "+372-detour" on the FAQ link in the bottom. Sorry for not paying attention Juri :-)"

I also missed the FAQ. It obviously happens to the best of us :))

Let's blame the AirBaltic webdesigner ;-)