Swiss regional carrier SkyWork Airlines has resumed operations from London City Airport nine months after it switched its route into the Docklands facility from its Bern Belp Airport to London Southend. The small carrier is returning its link from its Bern and at the same time has resurrected flights to London City from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg after Swiss International Air Lines ended its presence on the route earlier this summer as part of its cuts at the Swiss airport.
SkyWork is initially offering a single morning weekday rotation between London City and EuroAirport (plus a Sunday rotation) from July 19, 2015, but from September 1, 2015 it will add an evening rotation and a Saturday service to boost its schedule to 12 flights per week. All flights offer a continuation service from EuroAirport to Bern.
The airline has moved quickly to fill the void of Swiss International Air Lines in this market and said that it is proud to have established this route less than eight weeks after it initially made contact with EuroAirport about the London City opportunity, describing this as “an extraordinary achievement by all the partners involved”.
SkyWork has acquired a Saab 2000 on ACMI lease from Etihad Regional to serve the route and said the faster cruise speed of the airliner versus the Dornier 328 it uses on its London Southend – Bern offering will make the London City – Bern a competitive option despite the short stop in Basel, with block times just 35 minutes longer than the non-stop option.
“This type of aircraft is the ideal choice for our needs and this particular route,” said Martin Inäbnit, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors, SkyWork Airlines:
The SkyWork boss is convinced of the route’s potential as well as the attractiveness of the Basel/London City offering. “The early departure to the capital of Great Britain is ideal for business travellers from the tri-border region. As a Swiss airline we are delighted about being able to operate this prestigious route,” he added.
The flights represent a U-turn of sorts from the regional carrier. SkyWork Airlines moved its twice weekday link between Bern and London from City Airport to Southend Airport from the start of the winter 2014/2015 schedules at the end of October last year. It said the move would enable it to modify its schedule and provide better flight times for corporate travellers.
We highlighted at the time of the switch that while the move would certainly have reduced the airline's costs of serving the London market, there was a danger it would also lose some of the premium traffic that has kept this particular route flying.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand and capacity statistics shows that average air fares have been stable on the route over the last couple of years, despite a strong initial performance. During the first year of operation (2011), SkyWork secured average one-way fares of over $240 but these have now slipped to around $130 in the subsequent three years. The move from London City to London Southend resulted in SkyWork's estimated average air fares between Bern and London falling 4.8 per cent in the final quarter of last year from $126 to $120.
SkyWork first launched flights between Bern 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.
“We are delighted to have SkyWork Airlines on board to continue the tradition of a Swiss airline operating a London City to Basel route. Switzerland is a very important market for us and we are very pleased to add Basel and Bern to Geneva and Zurich on our list of destinations,” said Matthew Hall, chief commercial officer, London City Airport.
To complement the London City operation Skywork has said it will “adjust and optimise” its schedule from London Southend. This has seen it reduce the frequency of its flights from nine to five times weekly with evening rotations, mainly targeting the needs of leisure passengers, operating every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.