Two media outlets in Bilbao and San Sebastian, El Correo Español and El Diario Vasco respectively (both owned by Vocento) have published a “news” item that Latvian airline AirBaltic has hung up an advertisement in Riga Airport promoting their connection with Bilbao airport by using a photo of La Concha Bay in San Sebastian.

The “news” broke when a Twitter user, José Antonio Navarro (@JAN_donosti), tweeted a photo along with the comment “This is how @airBaltic promotes Bilbao as a destination.”


Curiously, these reports are offered by both publications without a paywall, meaning they’re one of the few articles one does not need a subscription to read.  We wonder why this decision was taken, as we’re sure it was not an innocent coincidence.  After all, both of these media outlets, for a long time, have tried to foment neighborly feuds whenever possible, be it about soccer, public investment, or, as now, a Latvian company’s marketing campaign.

They seem to be surprised, and indeed upset, that anyone would dare use, for a connection with Bilbao airport, a photo of San Sebastian in advertising.  However, they are not surprised when an article in their own magazine uses an image of the Hanging Bridge, which connects Portugalete to Getxo (neither of which is a “neighborhood” of Bilbao), or of the Rioja Alavesa, or of San Sebastian itself.

However, we do believe that this is a recognition of the importance and prestige the capital of Gipuzkoa has on the international stage.  Combining the projection these two Basque cities have, making the most of that synergy, does not seem at all like a way of minimizing either, but rather a good way to promote them.

The airline has published a report about some of the places on can visit in the Basque Country in the April 2023 issue of their magazine, as well as another page in their June issue about surfing in the Southern Basque Country (as they seem to have forgotten the excellent surfing to be had in the Northern Basque Country).

Call us distrustful all you want, but we’re convinced that if AirBaltic had used this ad to publicize a Riga—Biarritz connection, using a photo of La Concha to advertise a flight to Biarritz, there would have never been an article.

We too are surprised, though not upset, that the article never discusses Biarritz, or Bayonne, or St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, or Pamplona, as these are all places that not only have the same cultural identity as Bilbao and San Sebastian, but are also within the service area of the main airport in the Basque Country.

Ignoring, or wishing to ignore, that most visitors to San Sebastian arrive at Bilbao Airport is borderline ridiculous.  The same is true for willfully ignoring that the distance between Bilbao and San Sebastian, or San Sebastian to the Rioja Alavesa, or from San Sebastian to Biarritz, or from Vitoria to Pamplona, is less in time and distance than many European drive on their daily commute.

The goal of these so-called articles is the search, or indeed fabrication, of friction points.  After all, there are those who love to be the instruments of “Basque national deconstruction.”

They told us that at Biarritz—Pays Basque Airport (given this name without any small-town complexes), a while back, in the arrivals area, there was a photo of the Bilbao Guggenheim.  No one in the Northern Basque Country batted an eye.  After all, both Biarritz and Bilbao are in the Pays Basque.

In the end, we don’t know what’s more worrying: the fact that this type of article is being published with the only goal of creating controversy where there is none, or that people have written to AirBaltic to tell them off for using a photo of San Sebastian to promote Bilbao Airport, or that some readers are falling into the trap set by this “article.”

What did catch our eye, especially given that this airline is flying out of Latvia, is that the advertisement for Bilbao Airport made no mention of the fact that, when you get here, you’ve arrived at the Basque Country.

In any case, well done, AirBaltic!  We think it’s quite normal to use a well-known attraction in our country to promote a connection between Latvia’s main airport and the Basque Country’s main airport.  We’re sure that most people in Gipuzkoa and in Biscay are not only not upset about it, but indeed delighted.  To the people working for AirBaltic, please pay the complainers no heed: we’re sure that if you only advertised Bilbao in your next Riga—Bilbao campaign, they’d complain that you’d forgotten about San Sebastian.

Therefore, we encourage you to continue advertising your Riga—Bilbao connection by using photos of all the different wonders visitors from the Baltic States can find throughout the Land of the Basques, from Bilbao to Bayonne and from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Tudela.  They have to sell tickets!  What’s more, anyone in the Baltic States who might wish to run with the bulls in Pamplona will find the Riga—Bilbao connection perfect!

We’ll leave you with the article in El Diario Vasco (which identical to the one published in El Correo Español) and, what’s more, with the AirBaltic magazines with articles about this connection.

El Diario Vasco – 26/6/2023 – Euskadi

Air Baltic promociona su vuelo a Bilbao con una imagen de San Sebastián

«Vamos a estudiar lo que ha sucedido de cerca con nuestro equipo de marketing». Air Baltic analiza por qué la compañía letona utilizó una imagen de la bahía de La Concha, el principal reclamo de San Sebastián, en los carteles que ha colgado en el aeropuerto de Riga para promocionar su nuevo vuelo a Bilbao.

(Follow) (Automatic translation)

Air Baltic April 2023 (starting on p. 45)

Air Baltic June 2023 (p. 50)

Last Updated on Dec 3, 2023 by About Basque Country

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