A UK start-up carrier plans to inaugurate an alternative scheduled flight option for passengers travelling between the south east England and Paris with regular flights between Shoreham and Pontoise from spring 2013. The carrier is understood to be looking to offer a twice weekday and daily weekend link using a 19-seat Let L-410 operated on its behalf by Van Air Europe.
Details of the airline’s plans were released this week with flights due to begin from March 6, 2013. Reservations are scheduled to open on December 1, 2012 with single fares including taxes and charges of £69 each way. The start-up aims to take advantage of the lack of flight options between the French capital and London Gatwick to provide what it describes as a service that is focused around saving time.
“This is the perfect Christmas present for someone who wants a new and special experience – flying one-hour to Paris in the spring!” said Neil Laughton, one of the two Sussex-based aviation experts, who have founded the airline. “This has long-term benefits for the local community too as there are many businesses in Sussex who can use this service on a regular basis and holiday makers or Paris day trippers can also make the most of travelling to and from Shoreham’s charming airport, where parking is easy and check in to take off takes just minutes.”
Brighton City Airways has been conceived by Jonathan Candelon, Managing Director of leading career pilot school Flying Time Aviation, at Shoreham Airport, and Neil Laughton, entrepreneur, pilot and adventurer, famous for leading Bear Grylls to the summit of Mount Everest and managing his Mission Everest world record motorised parachute flight in 2007. Jonathan and Neil met when Neil approached Flying Time Aviation four years ago, asking for lessons to help him fly the world’s first ‘road legal flying car’. They became friends, agreeing that a partnership to introduce a desirable European route from the south coast would make good business and benefit Sussex.
By using smaller, predominantly general aviation oriented airfields like Shoreham and Pontoise, the project’s backers claim that it will ensure passenger journeys are “the most convenient” they will ever experience. “With us you can park just outside the terminal, check in 15 minutes before your flight, enjoy a complimentary tea or coffee in a VIP lounge and we will fly you close to the city centre at your destination. Flights are only one hour long, this means that you could be at the Arc de Triomphe or Brighton Pier within two hours of parking at your departure airport,” they say.
The confirmation of the airline’s launch plans this week have been welcomed by Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing & Shoreham. “I am delighted to see cross channel flights returning to Shoreham again. Shoreham Airport has a lot to offer as a base for short hop trips to the Continent with a large market of travellers on its doorstep who otherwise have to spend more time travelling to and through the London airports than in the air,” he said.
The start-up will not be the first air carrier to serve this route: a small independent carrier called Skysouth previously flew a scheduled link between Shoreham (Brighton City) and Pontoise Cormeilles from August 2007 and March 2009 using a seven-seat Piper aircraft. Aurigny Air Services, Blue Islands, Flybe’s predecessor Jersey European and South East Air have also flown scheduled service from the airfield to destinations in the Channel Islands and Northern France.
Pontoise has also been used previously for scheduled air services, probably most notably by UK low-cost carrier Debonair, which used the airfield as its Paris terminus for its flights from London Luton between November 1988 and October 1999. Before then French operator Aigle Azur had provided international flights to London Gatwick and domestic services to Deauville and Rouen.
The problem with serving smaller airports is the limited ground transport options they provide to departing and arriving passengers. Other than those in private or hired cars, both Shoreham and Pontoise are not easily linked to local rail infrastructure. Shoreham Airfield is located just over seven miles west of Brighton and the start-up intends to provide a minibus shuttle to Shoreham-By-Sea Railway Station, approximately five minutes journey from the airfield and a link to the UK regional rail network. A similar offering will be available at Pontoise, located 22 miles northwest of La Defense business district, with minibus transfers to the RER (A) Cergy – Préfecture station approximately 15 minutes away. Passenger can also access the French capital by using the C line from Pontoise RER, again a 15 minute journey from the airfield.
The launch of the carrier will coincide with the renaming of Shoreham Airport as airport manager Ric Belfield explains: “This is absolutely what we want to see at the airport, scheduled international travel bringing lots of people through our historic airport, which was the first licensed airfield in Britain. This has prompted us to rename the airport Brighton (Shoreham) Airport, to link it properly to our neighbouring city.”
For Brighton City Airways the Pontoise route is expected to be the first of a number of niche services it will offer from the airport. “Our launch route is Paris and we have huge plans for future routes that will always follow our original model,” it says. Other destinations under consideration are thought to include Amsterdam, Brussels Charleroi and Jersey.