Following an overwhelming response from the business community, Flybe has taken the commercial decision to extend its limited series between Cardiff and London City Airport into a regular operation from this winter. But it has highlighted it will only maintain operations while an appetite remains for people to fly between the two UK capital cities.
Flybe inaugurated a short-term six week series of ‘rescue’ flights on September 12, 2016 during the current closure of the Severn Tunnel and will continue to serve the Cardiff – London City market with three flights on weekdays through to October 21, 2016 when the Severn Tunnel is due to re-open from rail electrification works.
The airline has shown its regional model and the use of efficient 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops can provide sustainable air services in many UK domestic markets. This trial operation has seen “a very promising level of customer uptake during its first few weeks of operation,” it says and has persuaded it to introduce a twice weekday and daily weekend operation from November 1, 2016.
“This route has quite simply taken off, quickly becoming an early success,” said Vincent Hodder, chief revenue officer, Flybe. “We have been heartened by the response it has received and delighted to continue operating this route to meet demand and look forward to it continuing to go from strength to strength.”
A survey carried out on passengers prior to departure found 95 percent confirmed that they would continue to use the service after the Severn Tunnel re-opened, and a further 33 percent had already become regular travellers on the route, the airline revealed.
Flybe’s chief executive, Saad Hammad, has highlighted that this route growth has been facilitated by airline and airport partners working closely together to support the needs of passengers. “This is a great example of how a regional airport working with Flybe can move quickly to address local needs in a meaningful way,” he said.
“Flybe has made a significant investment in Wales over the past 18 months and it is pleasing to see the Welsh public responding with such positive demand. Serving regional communities and providing regional connectivity is what Flybe is all about,” he added.
Cardiff Airport said it is “committed” to working with Flybe to ensure this service will “remain a competitive option” but like the carrier warned that the route will only remain open while there is a “sufficient demand for both business and leisure travel” and urged locals to use the service “to ensure its long term security”.
Cardiff is growing in significance as a centre for financial services and the need for fast transport connections for business travellers is only going to increase, especially into Canary Wharf and the heart of the City of London, which is well-connected via London City Airport. It has also seen passengers from London using the service to do business in Wales.
“Flybe recognises that time is precious for customers and this route is clear vindication that we are faster than road or rail, and not only faster, but usually also cheaper,” said Vincent Hodder.
A look at the airline’s new winter schedules shows that the flight has a scheduled block time of 60 - 75 minutes but the record journey to date has reportedly taken just 35 minutes. This compares with a just over two hour train trip and two hour 45 minute road journey over the 150 mile city pair. In terms of pricing, Flybe is offering one way fares from £34.99 including taxes and charges. Comparable single train fares vary from £29.50 for a restricted ticket, £55.50 for off-peak trains, up to £110 and £183.50 for open standard and first class travel.