A leading pharmaceutical company is to provide seat guarantees to support a new scheduled air link between the UK and Sweden, according to reports in a leading UK newspaper. The new link between Cambridge International Airport and Gothenburg Landvetter Airport is due to be operated by Scandinavian regional carrier Sun-Air.
UK multinational pharmaceutical and biologics company AstraZeneca is understood to have reached an agreement with Danish carrier Sun-Air for the airline to introduce two rotations per day, four days per week between Cambridge and Gothenburg from the end of March this year. It will guarantee 20 seats on each of the Dornier 328 flights, with the remaining 12 seats available for commercial sale.
The link represents a solution to the company’s own business needs, connecting staff in its new Cambridge headquarters with Gothenburg, Sweden, its other major European hub.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer, AstraZeneca told the Telegraph that the air link was conceived as a way to make Cambridge and Gothenburg behave as if they were one giant research hub. “Scientists already work closely together [between the UK and Sweden],” an AstraZeneca spokesman told the newspaper. “But we hope this will encourage more scientists to do it since it could be done in a one day trip.”
The drug maker already has around 1,000 Cambridge-based staff, but this will expand to 2,500 by the time the city becomes the company’s global headquarters in 2016. Another 2,400 staff are based in Gothenburg.
A dedicated flight path between the two European hubs will also reinforce the company’s Anglo-Swedish heritage. AstraZeneca was formed in 1999 from a merger between Sweden’s Astra AB and Zeneca Group, a spin-off from the now-defunct British chemicals manufacturing behemoth ICI, says the newspaper.
“We’ve worked closely with Cambridge – its major businesses and the airport – to bring this niche but valuable market opportunity to life”, said Kristian Tvergaard, commercial director, Sun-Air. “We very much look forward to establishing ourselves in Cambridge, the East of England and servicing valuable business customers in both Sweden and the UK with our excellent in-flight hospitality”.
Since 2010, according to international data published by Visit Britain, Cambridge has become the 4th highest volume market for visitors from Sweden to regional English cities, while for international business travellers it demonstrates the 3rd highest volume of Swedish inbound visitors.
"Sweden is an important new economic link for East England”, said Taus Nohrlind, chairman at the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Cambridgeshire. "As the most important Scandinavian market to the region, it accounts for more inbound business visits than Denmark, Norway and Finland combined."
According to reports, 55 per cent of travellers from Sweden to Cambridge are business travellers, the highest percentage of any major international market and twice the average business share of international visitors to Cambridge. Meanwhile, tourism data shows that Swedish overnight visits to East England have increased by 30 per cent since 2010.
“We are delighted with the news from Sun-Air," said David Surley, head of business and route development, Cambridge International Airport. "Scandinavia is a most compelling origin and destination market for Cambridge, with strong demand for both tourism and business travel; many companies in this region enjoy excellent trade relations with the Swedish. In fact, this new service by Sun-Air will connect our region with, statistically, one of the most important international economies."
Sun-Air, which operates as a franchise partner of British Airways, is also understood to be introducing flights between Gothenburg and Birmingham from the end of March 2015 when existing operator, bmi regional ends its own flights. The latter launched the route in May 2013; one year after Scandinavian carrier City Airline suspended its long-running operation between the cities. Sun-Air will offer a six times weekly schedule from March 29, 2015.
Return of summer link to Verona
Meanwhile, leading specialist tour operator Inghams has expanded its range of resort destinations available in Italy flying from Cambridge International Airport this summer. All destinations are reached by weekly flight to Verona, departing every Saturday between May 16, 2015 and September 26, 2015.
Flights to Verona were introduced in summer 2014 and have proved enormously popular with visitors to Lake Garda, as well as those to the historic city of Verona itself. This summer, Inghams is expanding its range of resort destinations from Cambridge, to include two new Italian lakes, Lake Iseo and Lake Ledro, plus the South Tyrol region of northern Italy.
“Verona has been an absolute success and we’re delighted to see the direct flights this summer offering even more Italian resorts and destinations,” said David Surley, head of business and route development, Cambridge International Airport.
“As the only direct flights to Verona from the East, we fully expect these new destinations to be just as popular as Lake Garda – there’s a market for about 10,000 passengers between the Italian Lakes and our region every year, most having to travel a long way to and from other UK airports, so this development is important,” he added.