Transaviabaltika Jetstream 31 aircraft with a beautiful starry sky in the background.

Transaviabaltika thrills with Jetstream 31 cockpit view to Kärdla

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftNeed to get to the Estonian town of Kärdla from the capital city of Tallinn?

Well, given that Kärdla is the only town on the island of Hiiumaa, flight options are limited. If you have several hours to spare, driving is possible. Mass transit, via a four-hour bus ride, is also possible — and cheap, estimated at under €15 each way. Both require a ferry ride.

As you might have guessed, you can also get to Kärdla by plane. It reduces the travel time to about an hour, with the flight itself being around 30 minutes.

The small airport used to have a number of scheduled flights serving the region, back when it was under Soviet control. But when Estonia became independent in 1991, air traffic collapsed. Now only one airline serves the airport, offering nonstops to and from Tallinn.

That airline is Transaviabaltika.

Well, I think so anyways. If you’re searching for tickets by the airline name, you’ll likely first visit a website that takes you here. If you’ve clicked on it, you’ll see that it’s an “About Us” page that looks nothing like a conventional ticketing website. That’s because it isn’t, and an easy-to-miss link in yellow redirects you to something called Saartelennuliinid to buy the tickets. It seems to go by Airlink Estonia in English.

Saartelennuliinid at least looks like a traditional booking website. And indeed from here on it begins to feel more familiar, though the website has a number of gremlins that continue to not exactly inspire confidence.

Nonetheless, you can select the route, select the date, and choose your flights.

Depending on the day, Transaviabaltika operates between Tallinn and Kärdla once- and sometimes twice-daily. It offers two fare classes at fixed prices: Flex for €33 and Fix for €25 each way. Flex offers a 50% cancellation refund and the ability to change your ticket twice, while Fix does not. The only add-ons are an extra €20 for golf clubs or skis. Then complete the payment on another website.


I opted to indulge my inner #AvGeek by booking a quick-turn, roundtrip ticket between Tallinn and Kärdla.

Several weeks later, I strolled into the Tallinn Airport with a few travel mates and sought out the ticket desk.

Despite buying the ticket via Saartelennuliinid, the counter was back to being labeled Transaviabaltika. It opened an hour before our 5pm departure. Also, fun fact, you can buy tickets at the airport in cash.

A friendly agent printed off tickets and directed us through security. Boarding began on time via a remote gate, with a bus driving us all to a hangar some distance from the main terminal.

And there, in front of the hangar, sat the real reason I booked this ticket — a shiny British Aerospace Jetstream 31.

Transaviabaltika Jetstream 31 in front of a Tallinn Airport hanger.

First appearing in 1980, the twin-engine turboprop is a 19-passenger commuter plane. It used to be somewhat popular in the US, with the 31 and its larger model siblings flying feeder services for virtually ever major American airline of the 1980s and 90s. But these days it is extinct from the US, and hard to find elsewhere altogether.

Curiously, the aircraft was painted in an AIS Airlines livery, a Dutch airline. I assume the airplane is leased, which is not uncommon, but it further muddied the waters about who exactly was doing what for whom.

The captain, a self-ascribed ten-year veteran of the airline and the airplane, welcomed us aboard via the rear air stairs. Bags were placed in the hold in the back, while passengers turned to the left.

Passengers are boarding via jet stairs of a Transaviabaltika Jetstream 31 on a cold winter day.

The interior is certainly not the most glamorous you’ll ever see. The decidedly 1980s design features white walls and ceiling, blue flooring, blue seat covers, and a blue bulkhead wall. The tray tables are a yellowy off-white color.

There are no power ports, overhead bins or even armrests. Walking through it requires a bit of ducking, though it is wider than you’d think. Seats are arranged in a 1-2 configuration.

A view of the interior of the Transaviabaltika Jetstream 31 aircraft. Seats are blue and in a 2-1 configuration.

After a short safety briefing the two pilots fired up the engines, and taxied out for departure. The little airplane was airborne in no time at all, climbing slowly over the city before heading out over the water to the island.

If you forgot to bring a book or your phone battery is low, the very large windows are the primary onboard entertainment. A small TV screen on the bulkhead suggests that a DVD player exists somewhere onboard, though a note on the TV adds that it is not to be used in-flight.

If you’re seated in the first few rows, however, you’ll be treated to a view directly into the cockpit. Seat 1C is almost perfectly aligned with the gap, giving it a particularly thrilling jumpseat feel.

A perfect view into the cockpit of the Transaviabaltika Jetstream 31. Lights illuminate the controls.

Some 25 minutes later, the pilots guided the airplane through a snow squall and onto the runway at Kärdla. We disembarked into the cold, snowy air and headed into the terminal.

A woman working at the desk checked our IDs and handed us each a plastic boarding pass. I would have given just about anything to keep it, but the passes were collected by security moments later.

Soon enough we were back onto the airplane and taking off through the snow for Tallinn. The experience was really no different: a smooth flight at night. We landed 25 minutes later and disembarked back onto the bus.

The Jetstream 31 flying on a snowy night. This image shows the propellor.

It was a fun ride for the airplane alone, but I wish I’d flown it during a non-winter month because Kärdla looks like a wonderful place to visit. At €50 roundtrip, it’s hard to argue against taking the far faster flight option. Next time, I’ll try to stay.

If you’re like me, seeking an #AvGeek adventure, this hop thrills. Previously Transaviabaltika offered several flights in the region, all on Jetstreams. It looks like the carrier dialed back considerably in December.

If Estonia is a bit too far, a handful of Canadian airlines also appear to still fly the Jetstreams periodically. Either way, consider boarding first to get the jumpseat-lite seat in the middle. You won’t regret it.

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All images credited to the author, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren