Swiss regional carrier SkyWork Airlines has announced it will move its twice weekday link between its Berne base and London from City Airport to Southend Airport from the start of the winter 2014/2015 schedules at the end of October, although it believes the switch will not impact its strategy to provide an efficient offering to the business traveller.
The carrier says the move to the "customer friendly” Southend Airport from October 26, 2014 will enable it to modify its schedule and provide better flight times for corporate travelers. Although the morning outbound flight from Berne and return from Southend will operate to a similar schedule as today, the evening flight will be retimed to depart 90 minutes later, allowing more time at the destination for day travellers. The move will certainly reduce the airline's costs of serving the London market but there is a danger it could also lose some of the premium traffic that has kept the route flying.
The move is part of a revised business plan to transition the business towards a sustainable future while continuing to offer attractive connections to major European cities from the underserved Berne Belp Airport. Alongside the London service, SkyWork will offer double daily rotations to Cologne/Bonn and Munich, while it will continue to serve Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna, albeit with reduced frequencies on some of these routes, most notably Hamburg which will move from eleven to six times weekly. A seasonal weekend flight to Palma de Mallorca is also due to operate through the winter months.
SkyWork launched flights between Berne and London City in March 2011 initially with a daily weekday rotation and increasing demand resulted in the introduction of a second weekday frequency from November 2011. A third lunchtime rotation was added from October 28, 2012 but was suspended at the end of the winter 2012/2013 season.
According to official data from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the airline carried 16,115 passengers on the route in the 2011 calendar year, growing to 31,990 in 2012 but slipping down to 27,031 last year. Analysis of MIDT data suggests that average air fares on the route have fallen considerably since SkyWork launched flights in 2011, slipping from an average one-way fare of $243 in 2011 to $130 in 2012 and $133 in 2013.
Alongside the loss of the SkyWork link to Berne, our blog, Airline Route, has reported this week that London City Airport will also lose two notable air links from British Airways this winter with latest schedule updates showing the carrier’s London City-based CityFlyer division will end flights to Aberdeen and Stockholm Arlanda from late October 2014. These two routes are flown 15 and 16 times weekly, respectively, using Embraer E170 regional jets (more details here). The cuts follow just a week after BA announced it will launch a five-times daily Dublin service from London City this winter and increase frequency from London City to Scotland, with two new flights to Glasgow and an extra daily service to Edinburgh.
The loss of SkyWork Airlines and the British Airways flights will also be balanced by the return of Flybe to the Docklands’ airport. The regional carrier is to offer new domestic links from London City to Belfast City, Edinburgh, Exeter and Inverness and an international connection to Dublin from the start of the northern winter schedule in late October 2014. These will be supplemented with off-peak leisure flights to selected ski, regional French and northern Spanish destinations which are expected to be announced in the coming months.
Flybe will deploy five growth aircraft for its London City operation which will be based at three of its regional bases, and are expected to fly up to 500,000 passengers annually. It will offer a four times daily services from/to Edinburgh and Dublin, three times daily services from/to Belfast and Exeter and twice daily from/to Inverness. The carrier expects the new routes will offer enhanced links into the UK capital as well as appeal to a significant number of City and Canary Wharf-based passengers who need to access the UK regions and neighbouring European destinations.