After Air Ticino, which has not yet started operations, could Geneva-based start-up La Nova be the solution to a rather poor last decade for the Swiss aviation industry?
This year, we saw Swiss start-up Fly Bair begin operations this July, but it’s main route network, which consisted of flights from Swiss capital Bern to different destinations within Spain, didn’t take off as planned. The airline now only operates the occasional flight between Bern and Spanish resort Mallorca instead of a wide route network that they proposed in 2019, with flights to Greece, Italy and several Spanish cities (including Mahon on the island of Menorca) from Bern and southern Swiss town Sion. This is mainly due to travel restrictions created by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, in Switzerland, it has recently been decided to close Lugano Airport, which is mainly used for general aviation. It once served as a base for Swiss regional airline Darwin Airlines (subsidiary of former Slovenian flag carrier Adria Airways), but the airport has suffered after Darwin’s bankruptcy and demise in late 2017. Darwin operated to 8 other cities from Lugano Airport, 4 of which were in Italy, 2 in France, 1 in Switzerland and 1 in Spain. Although most of these destinations were only on a seasonal basis, these were sufficient for the airport to gain some profit on. Clearly this was not enough to survive, which is why Darwin went bankrupt. Lugano Airport has seen passenger numbers slumber since Darwins demise, which was even the case between 2012 and 2013, where the number of passengers at the airport went 15% down to 151 629 passengers from the previous year. In the 1990s, the airport would gather around 300’000 passengers per year. Currently, only 1 destination is operated to from the airport, and that is by Czech airline Silver Air to the Croatian resort of Losinj. The closure of the airport will result in the loss of 72 jobs. These are all reasons to have a new airline in Switzerland, with a different approach to the Swiss market.
LaNova’s concept is an interesting one. Promoting rapid connections, the airline intends to avoid large resorts and capital cities, while proposing a network that would concentrate itself on minor French cities such as Hyères and La Rochelle. This makes sense to due to the geographical proximity between Switzerland and France. The airline also plans to operate from a terminal far away from the main terminals of Geneva Airport to give passengers an exclusive experience. The airline was due to start operations in October 2018, but delayed its launch to 2019 and then to Spring of next year. In its orginal network it included the following destinations: Anvers, Bologne, Dinard, Florence, Hyères, La Rochelle, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice, St Moritz, Stuttgart and Turin. As you can see, many of these destinations are in France. But this is not an airline for the ordinary person: flight prices range between 590 and 790 CHF ($661 and $885). This airline is therefore clearly geared towards the transport of not-as-rich upper classes to small, calm French towns. The reason for these extortionate prices is the so-called “personalisation” of your “experience” onboard the airline. La Nova will also operate executive flights for 1200 CHF ($1344).
This could be a good idea, as this airline incidentally targeted a market that hasn’t been hit very hard by the economic crisis caused by this pandemic. It plans to operate a fleet of ATR 72s and Pilatus PC-12s, the latter of which are luxurious Swiss-made turboprops. Could this airline be the saviour of the Swiss aviation industry and will it actually start operations within the coming year? If you wish to express your opinion, which you are free to do (within reason, of course), please inscribe a comment below. 5th of December 2020.