SkyWork adds Do328 FFS, celebrates 1st year at LCY

From 3 May, Skywork Airlines will be the owner of only Dornier 328 full-flight simulator (FFS) in Europe, after buying the Amsterdam-based device from CAE.

The FFS will be decked out in full Skywork livery. “From this we’ll build our own TRTO (Type Rating Training Organisation),” explained SkyWork’s CEO Tomislav Lang. “CAE will continue to maintain the simulator and handle the commercial side of the operation, through which we will be selling capacity.”

Lang was speaking at the press conference to celebrate the airline’s first year of service on the Bern–London City route, which began in late March 2011 and has become the strongest route in the carrier’s network.

“The plan of using 328s early on routes and growing into using Q400s been good,” Lang noted, the London City route having made the jump quite soon after commencement. “Vienna, Hamburg and Berlin Schoenefeld are all set to follow.”

Lang reported that the airline is currently happy with the seven aircraft fleet it has, namely four Do328s and four Q400s. “We are looking ahead though and doing some benchmarking. We’re talking seriously with Embraer. There is no Bombardier jet product suitable for Bern, as all the CRJs except the CRJ200 need too much runway. The CS100 would be in our thoughts but we’re not touching this.

“We need to pull traffic from Zurich, Basel and Geneva into Bern,” Lang elaborated. “So we’ll probably go with an E-Jet as there is the potential to grow [from a smaller model to a much larger one]. The MRJ is not in our plans as it’s a jet without belly-load. As for the Sukhoi Superjet 100, we’ll probably have another look now it has European certification.”

SkyWork’s routes now total 25 and the airline achieved 85% growth in 2011 over its 2010 result. “Today, our company is building something new: the first best-cost airline,” Lang declared. “I don’t believe anybody will be able to copy that. We have an average age of 32.4 years, so we have the team to build the product. And it’s a product built on manners, on treating passengers as guests.”

On route development, Lang believes the Palma de Mallorca service could become daily. Meanwhile, the airline has recently started service to Cologne, its third German destination. “In the British market, we would like to build partnership with an operator such as CityJet,” he noted. “Elsewhere we have Zagreb on the radar, with Croatia set to join EU.”

Operating in Switzerland is not easy, Lang bemoaned. “It’s good that the Swiss economy is still stable, though we see problems coming. In Bern, we saw Cirrus go [bankrupt], with its services now taken over by OLT. Cirrus’s departure shocked us,” he admitted. “We need more than ourselves [in the market].”

Lang highlighted that the airline has to break even by October 2013, having started in October 2010, to ensure that its major backer will continue to support its growth. “We have a five-year plan to save €40 million on costs. We haven’t been helped by costs associated with the two Q400s. One needed a significant amount of work,” he reported.

“Dispatching the aircraft is the biggest trick,” Lang continued. “Our dispatch reliability of 60% in first year is now at 99.5%. We’ve also improved our punctuality figure, as early on we had a lot of diversions to Basel.”

Asked about regulatory problems and threats which could prevent SkyWork meeting its target, Lang pointed to the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) as a serious threat. “We don’t know what we are required to do,” he stated.

The global economy is next on his list. He believes 2012 will be the worst year, but noted that the UK is still stable – helpful when that covers a key route in the network.

“I am a confident person though, and we are not doing this out of fun. We are not here to burn money,” Lang concluded.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
London City Airport

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