While aviation watchers stateside mull over the implications of the US-AA mega-merger, in some parts of Europe it is small carriers which continue to make the news.
Next week sees the start of Minoan Air’s first routes outside Greece. The fledgling airline took to the skies from a base in Crete last year, operating short hops to other Greek islands. But on Monday March 4, the airline makes its UK debut with a route from Oxford to Edinburgh.
It is a route with a history. The last carrier to offer regular scheduled service on the sector was Varsity Express. That short-lived airline chose Oxford to Edinburgh to celebrate taking to the British skies. The carrier folded within a week. It slowly emerged that the man behind Varsity Express was Martin Halstead who had earlier presided over the very public demise of much-hyped but omnishambolic Alpha One Airways.
We do think that Minoan are tempting fate a little by launching their first British service on the first Monday in March. That was the same day chosen by Varsity Express for the start of their Oxford to Edinburgh service in 2010. So if Minoan Air can last more than a week on the Anglo-Scottish route, we shall be the first to give a very hearty cheer.
Next stop Dublin
These new routes come at a good moment for Oxford airport. Manx2 introduced daily scheduled services from Oxford to both Jersey and the Isle of Man in May 2012, but both routes were axed last month, leaving Oxford devoid of any scheduled services.
Minoan Air is clearly looking to cut a dash across the continent, for later next month the carrier opens a hub in Lugano with its Fokker 50s flying out of the lakeside city in Switzerland to Vienna and Rome. If Minoan’s plans all work out as they hope, it’ll be clear proof that a strong geographical connection in an airline name is no disadvantage when flying routes far from the company’s notional home territory.
Minoan Air will offer what it dubs an all-business service on its new routes out of Oxford and Lugano. But that does not mean that fares are sky-high. Return flights from Oxford to Edinburgh, for example, start at a little over £100.