Fourth airline in four years fails at London Oxford
We love celebrating new routes and new bases, particularly when an airline decides to start a base in an unproven market rather than just trying to fly to Heathrow or Singapore or New York. We just want to know whether it will work. So we were excited earlier this year, on 4 March, to fly on the Minoan Air inaugural service from London Oxford Airport to Edinburgh Airport. However, after just over 150 days of operation, the airline plans to withdraw its F.50 operation to Dublin and Edinburgh from 5 August. While this is not the shortest based operation ever, perhaps the prospect of having to largely rely on low-yield leisure traffic during August forced the airline’s hand.
Loads were improving; time called too early?
Like football, new route development is more than ever results-dependent, and the tolerance levels for sustaining start-up losses is shrinking. At five months and one day, Minoan did not give the routes long to flourish, particularly as it did not seem to be spending many marketing dollars in promoting the services in the London Oxford catchment. Looking at UK CAA data for the two routes does show that the loads were gradually improving, with Edinburgh outperforming Dublin.
|Monthly Load Factor||16%||21%||25%||28%|
|Passengers per flight||8||11||12||14|
|Monthly Load Factor||10%||19%||19%||20%|
|Passengers per flight||5||9||9||10|
Indications from the London Oxford business development team at a recent industry conference were that bookings were continuing to improve from these levels, with many flights now recording passenger numbers in the 20s and 30s. Forward bookings were also strong, particularly in September, but they were clearly not enough to save the two routes.
Four strikes and you are out
Minoan Air becomes the fourth airline to have tried and failed at London Oxford over the past few years. Flybaboo, now part of Darwin Airline, operated a winter-season, Saturday-only service to Geneva over W09/10, which did not return the following year. Varsity Express flew for one week on 11 flights, carrying just 46 passengers to Edinburgh in March 2010, with the UK regional airline Linksair, which operated the route for the virtual airline, withdrawing its support for the venture fronted by so-called young entrepreneur Martin Halstead. Most recently, the airport was served from the Isle of Man from May 2012 up until January 2013 by Manx2.com (now operating as CityWing). Clearly there is a network development opportunity at London Oxford, but the right mix of aircraft, airline and route is yet to be found to make it a sustainable operation.