New era in UK regional air travel

 

Varsity Express launches scheduled flights from London Oxford Airport to Edinburgh on 1 March

Varsity Express www.flyvarsity.com will make its commercial debut as a new, full service regional airline operator on 1 March, 2010, offering Monday to Friday flights between London Oxford and Edinburgh Airports.  Services will be operated by 18-seat British Aerospace Jetstream 31 aircraft and promotional fares on every seat  go on sale today at £49 one way, including taxes and charges, through to 12 March.  Thereafter, lead in fares are available from £49 and flexible fares from £149. 

Timetable (Monday to Friday)

LNQ601          Depart Oxford             08:00               Arrive Edinburgh         09:30
LNQ602          Depart Edinburgh        17:00               Arrive Oxford              18:30

Varsity Express is a new name in UK aviation.  Its management pledges to deliver fast, affordable air travel and “an end to the frustration of crowded, congested airports, baggage charges and endless additional fees that the big airlines charge.”   The company is being run by an experienced management team, and backed by a private consortium of investors in the UK and Spain whose interests centre around property development and the entertainment industry.  The airline is well funded with sufficient reserves to launch what will be the first of a number of planned domestic routes over the coming year.

Commercial Director Will Gilligan comments:  “We have been looking to start a regular shuttle service on this sought after route for some time.  Oxford is the third most visited English city by international visitors (10 million per annum) and Edinburgh is the second most popular destination, after London, in the UK.” 

“We have watched with interest the developments and investment at Oxford Airport and believe it is a perfect, untapped market with plenty of potential, offering splendid facilities designed for private jet clients, enabling us to offer our passengers quick check-in times.   We anticipate carrying 6,500 passengers in our first year in a mix of 55% business, 45% travelling on leisure.   Our business travellers will mostly have interests in the hi-tech industries, research and academia.  Our fares should be especially attractive to University teachers and students.”

Promotion and marketing on social media sites

To cater for its younger customer base Varsity will be promoting its services, special incentives and promotions on Facebook and Twitter

Varsity Express has reached agreement with Copenhagen-based WorldTicket Sell-More-Seats as its e-ticket technology provider. The Danish company has been providing reservations systems for small and medium sized airlines since 2002 and takes over 20 million bookings per year.

The aircraft will be operated under an ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) wet lease arrangement with Humberside-based aviation company Linksair Ltd.  The aircraft being leased previously flew in revenue service with British Airways’ franchise operator Sun-Air, and has been completely refurbished internally and externally to a very high standard, including a new paint scheme and interior cabin design with leather seating. 

Onboard Varsity will offer a business class style service, serving complimentary tea, coffee and water plus a small snack.  There will be a range of other onboard refreshments available to purchase on board, including soft and alcoholic drinks, all served by an inflight attendant. 

“We are delighted to be linking these two important destinations of business and culture,” said  Tim Gill, an aviation consultant who is contracted to Varsity.  “Edinburgh is the most requested domestic route from Oxford, which by train can take over six hours with at least one change, sometimes three.  The cheapest off-peak return by rail  is £223, standard class £311 – any time.  A first class return between Oxford and Edinburgh is £473.  Any day return combination – should one ever contemplate it – would typically take 13 hours in transit.”  

This new route will eliminate the need for an overnight stay for people doing business in the Scottish capital, and open up the short-break market to the leisure market in both Edinburgh and Oxford alike.  The route will appeal to residents in Oxfordshire, the Thames Valley, the South Midlands and Home Counties with some five million people living within an hour’s drive of the airport, which is close to the M40, A34, A40 and A44 road networks.

Car parking at London Oxford Airport will be £5 (or £25 for the week) and check in will be at the oxfordjet business aviation facility, enabling passengers to experience a thoroughly pleasant travel experience. 

“We are very pleased to welcome this new connection to Edinburgh, conveniently timed for a full business day in Scotland’s capital,” said London Oxford Airport Managing Director Steve Jones.  “Varsity Express’ Edinburgh route will be our first week-daily domestic scheduled service and comes hard on the heels of our successful summer weekend flights to Jersey and Baboo’s newly inaugurated Saturday ski flight to Geneva.   These new business flights will complement our mainstay business aviation movements and we can guarantee Varsity passengers a very pleasant travel experience from our award winning oxfordjet facility *.”

Gordon Dewar, Managing Director, Edinburgh Airport said: “Edinburgh is the UK’s fastest growing airport – last year we added 29 new international services to destinations across 11 different European countries and completed the first phase of a £40 million redevelopment of the terminal building.  "Varsity Express’ decision to make its commercial debut from Edinburgh is a welcome one, boosting our domestic route network and widening choice for both business and leisure passengers flying to and from the Scottish capital. We look forward to working with Varsity to ensure the success of this brand new service."

*London Oxford Airport was named Business Aviation Airport of the Year 2009 by the Airport Operator’s Association (AOA).

 
Source = Varsity Express
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