Gambia Bird expects to launch a new route to Scandinavia in summer 2013 and will likely also increase frequencies on its two existing European connections, chief commercial officer Karsten Balke tells Flightglobal.
"Starting in May...we will sell tickets to another European destination," Balke said in an interview in the Gambian capital Banjul. "I expect to have a Scandinavian destination announced first."
Route development talks have been held with airports in Holland, Italy and unspecified countries "close to Germany and covering French catchment areas" - conceivably a reference to Belgium or Switzerland - but Balke said the Scandinavian talks are at the most advanced stage.
Gambia Bird is also preparing to increase the frequency of its once weekly flight to Barcelona and twice weekly service to London Gatwick airport - one of which connects via Freetown - following higher-than-expected load factors on the routes.
"We want to increase frequencies to London Gatwick by at least adding a third flight," says Balke.
Noting that the UK CAA has awarded Gambia Bird up to six slots in the British capital, he says the third frequency "depends on fifth-freedom traffic rights out of Freetown", while a possible fourth flight "depends on negotiations with tour operators in the UK".
Barcelona will benefit from a second weekly flight, effective 31 March, as Gambia Bird defends market share ahead of Vueling's upcoming entry to Banjul.
"When Spanair pulled out of the market there was a big gap left," Balke notes. "Some routes [between Spain and the west African sub-region] have been underserved for quite some time, and now it'll be good to see how the markets react."
He says that although the flag carrier's regional links should bolster demand among inbound passengers, Gambia Bird is nonetheless exercising caution before going head-to-head with Europe's larger carriers.
"France is very interesting, but we have strong competition," he concedes. "Starting a new route in Germany is not what we want."
Turning to potential future partnerships, Balke says Gambia Bird has held talks with four European carriers since its October 2012 launch. He identified 90% stakeholder Germania as one of the parties - saying the two airlines will start codesharing out of Gatwick in May - but declined to identify the others.
Gambia Bird has also held negotiations with two Middle Eastern carriers and "one in particular in west Africa", though those talks remain in the nascent stage.
"We are going into the market with open arms," Balke affirms. "Outside west Africa, we are in contact with bigger carriers. Of course they cannot cover everything [in the sub-region], so it's up to us to adopt a position where we bring them some added value."