Charter op proposes to fly long-haul routes for low-cost carriers

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A charter airline is trying to persuade low-cost carriers to give long-haul, scheduled service a try, proposing that outsourcing flights would reduce their costs and risk.

Richard Ziskind, Omni Air International's senior director of marketing, has been meeting with low-cost carriers over the past year, proposing to lease aircraft and crews, which he said would allow them to get airborne with far less time, money and effort than if they tried long-haul service on their own.

Ziskind said the aircraft, likely one of the 757s or DC-10s in Omni's fleet, would fly under the low-cost carrier's brand and with the livery, seating configuration and product it wanted.

Ziskind said the wet-lease concept (leasing an aircraft with crew) also would allow carriers more flexibility to try international service on a seasonal basis when the market is strongest and to stop the service if it isn't working. He's also pitching wet leases to test the viability of a service that would link a low-cost carrier's flights in Europe to an LCC's flights in the U.S.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Omni International provides service to U.S. tour operators, worldwide cruise lines and some scheduled-service airlines. So far, Ziskind said he was finding the most interest among Asian and European carriers, whose customers are more accustomed to flying charters than air passengers in North America.

His efforts come as the low-cost, long-haul idea has started to take hold, although the long-term success of the various models still remains open to question.

The effort getting the most media attention these days, particularly overseas, is AirAsia X, an AirAsia offshoot that will operate from a base in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Initially, AirAsia X will fly to Australia and China, then to Europe, India, Korea, Japan and the Middle East.

Other efforts are moving forward, too, including some with service to the U.S.

" Oasis Hong Kong flies its two-class service on 747 aircraft from Hong Kong to London Gatwick and Vancouver. Having just secured a $30 million investment from a fund management firm, it is planning an expansion that would include service to San Francisco and Chicago.

" Zoom began service a few years ago in Canada, from which it still offers all-coach service to Paris and five U.K. destinations. This year, a U.K.-based sister company began Zoom service between London Gatwick and New York, with some of the flights stopping in Bermuda. Zoom recently applied for U.S. rights to serve New York from regional airports throughout the U.K.

" FlyGlobespan added service from Boston to Glasgow, Scotland, and Ireland's West Airport Knock in late May. The airline also flies from Glasgow to Orlando Sanford.

" Qantas' low-cost subsidiary, Jetstar, started long-haul flights last November and flies from Melbourne and Sydney to Asia cities and Honolulu.

In September, CFO Peter Gregg said Jetstar made a small profit on its international service in the first seven months, when excluding start-up costs. He mentioned 20% lower costs than competitors and Jetstar's ability to benefit from Qantas' brand and purchasing power as key factors.

" LTU, a charter and scheduled carrier that is about to be rebranded as Air Berlin for its U.S. services, has a mix of individual bookings and seats reserved by tour operators. In the U.S. market, it offers service from New York; Los Angeles; Miami; Fort Myers, Fla.; and Las Vegas to Dusseldorf, Germany.

" Eurofly offers service from New York to four Italian cities: Rome, Naples, Bologna and Palermo.

" Maxjet, Eos and Silverjet offer lower-cost, all-premium-class service between London and the U.S. Maxjet and Eos use London Stansted, and Silverjet uses London Luton. L'Avion offers all-premium service between Newark and Orly Airport in Paris.

Eos is planning to add service from Newark to Stansted next spring and from New York to Paris next fall and said it also might add two other routes in 2008.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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