Start-up carrier Great Dane Airlines has launched flights from Aalborg Airport in Denmark to Dublin, Nice and Edinburgh and is focused on starting small and growing gradually, writes Justin Burns
The European regional carrier market has been challenging in recent times resulting in a batch of airlines falling by the wayside, but new start-up Great Dane Airlines is looking to buck the trend.
Based at Aalborg Airport, the carrier started twice a week narrow-body routes from Aalborg to Dublin Airport on 21 June, Nice Airport on 26 June and the latest service to start was Edinburgh Airport on 27 June.
These three services are being flown by utilising its one aircraft, a 118-seat Embraer E195, which has been leased from Stobart Air while ground handling for the new regional airline will be provided by Aalborg Handling in Aalborg and Swissport in Edinburgh.
Thomas Hugo Møller, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and founder, Great Dane Airlines, said the decision to base itself at Aalborg Airport was made as it saw a gap in connectivity being offered in the northern Jutland region and it intends to help fill that gap by offering scheduled and charter flights to the local community.
“This opening in the market gave us the idea to start an airline with strong local roots,” he said. “There are similar connectivity gaps and under-served communities across Scandinavia, and we are in talks with tour operators, particularly in Sweden, to try and exploit these opportunities.”
Moller is sure the scheduled routes will be a success and noted that there has been good demand so far. Referring to the Edinburgh connection, which operates on Mondays and Thursday ,he said the low frequency fits the current demand, but also gives business and leisure travelers’ the opportunity to make the most of their time in either destination.
Aalborg becomes the third Danish route offered from Scotland’s busiest airport and joins Edinburgh’s existing services to Copenhagen (16 weekly flights) and Billund (twice-weekly flights).
No other airport in Scotland now serves more destinations in Denmark than Edinburgh and it now offers over 3,400 weekly seats to the Nordic nation, with Great Dane joining easyJet, Norwegian, Ryanair and SAS, which already fly to Denmark. Of the 37 country markets served from the UK’s sixth busiest airport, Denmark is the 13th largest as a result of the new service to Aalborg.
The Danish regional carrier will also operate charter flights out of Aalborg. “The demand has been good for the charter flights and we expect our loads to strengthen as the summer progresses,” Møller said. “We are working with great partners [Bravo Tours and Nilles Travel] on the services to Rhodes, Palma de Mallorca and Varna, which always helps to make these operations successful.”
THE EMBRAER FACTOR
The E195 he said suits the start-up carrier’s needs and demands as with 118-seats it suits the right size for the Aalborg market. “It’s wide seats and 2×2 configuration makes it a very comfortable aircraft, which was another factor in our decision making. While we intend to continue operating this aircraft type for some time, and we certainly see aircraft like Embraer’s E195-E2 as a possible replacement aircraft in the future,” Møller added.
There are in his opinion opportunities to expand the network in future and the airline is already eyeing up more direct flights to European cities from Aalborg in the future, on both scheduled and charter services.
But Møller said it does not have rapid expansion ambitions, and it is concentrating on “starting small and to gradually grow larger”.
The European airline market has suffered some casualties in the last 18 months with the likes of Monarch Airlines, Primera Air, flybmi, and Germanwings all going bankrupt while the big groups like IAG, Lufthansa Group, Air France KLM Group, easyJet, and Ryanair grow ever stronger.
The core of the strategy by Great Dane Airlines to being a success it seems is to offer a personalized services to passengers.
“We are a local and regional airline and we want our customers to feel that, by offering them all a service to remember. You are more than just a seat number to Great Dane Airlines,” Møller explained.
There will be some big challenges ahead, but what does he see being the biggest in the short and medium term?
“After operational safety of course, survival is our next priority, as it is with every start-up company. It’s a competitive industry and we know we must work hard to change travel habits and perceptions,” Møller said.
“We already have great local awareness in our own catchment, so now we must think about building our awareness in our destination markets to ensure we start to stimulate two-way traffic on our routes.”
Aalborg Airport CEO, Søren Svendsen welcomed the start of services by Great Dane Airlines. “From Aalborg Airport’s point of view, Great Dane Airlines has located an unfulfilled market potential for both leisure and business traffic – in terms of a medium aircraft capacity, which match the demand for a direct route to Edinburgh.”