SkyWork Airlines likely to plump for Embraer over Bombardier

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Three years after declaring bankruptcy, Bern-based SkyWork Airlines has ambitious growth plans. Swiss Investor Daniel Borer came to the rescue in 2010 when he took over SkyWork through his holding firm Centaurium Aviation and placed Tomislav Lang at the helm of the European carrier.

After adding three extra Dornier 328 and two Bombardier Q400 turboprops to its existing one Dornier 328 and one Bombardier Q400 fleet last year, SkyWork does not intend to stop there. “We aim to be operating a fleet of 10 aircraft by 2015,” says Lang, speaking at a press conference held at London City Airport this morning.

The airline is also in discussions with Embraer regarding the potential purchase of an EJet, reveals Lang, adding that the airline is unlikely to opt for another Bombardier model.

“Bombardier has nothing to suit our requirements for operating aircraft out of Bern, which has restrictions on its runway,” Lang notes, also ruling out the CSeries. “We are not touching the CSeries because it is too new, too unknown and still not flying yet,” he says.

In terms of capacity, however, the aircraft would have hit the mark. “By 2015, we want to start earning our money from the 100 seater market.”

SkyWork is financing its aircraft through Centaurium, which is acting as a lessor to the Swiss airline, Lang notes. “Our goal is that that airline eventually starts investing by itself - we dont have an endless supply of cash from Mr Borer,” he adds, stressing that his group is a “serious airline” with real business aspirations.

The airline is committed to a strategic business plan, which is aimed at saving €40 million ($53 million) over the next five years, Lang notes. It achieved 85% growth in revenues over the past 12 months alone, and is expecting to breakeven by 2013, he says.

“This year we are focusing on finding synergies in areas such as maintenance, fuel and infrastructure.” In addition to collaborating with the City of Bern over tourism ventures, the airline is also working with Bern Airport with a view to setting up a joint venture projects.

SkyWork is focused on treating passengers equally, with no class division, and clearly prides itself on its retro image, complete with Pan Am-inspired hats for the stewardesses.

A year after launching London City to Bern flights, the route has become the most popular for SkyWork, with 13,745 passengers booked to fly so far this year, compared to 11,160 passengers throughout the whole of last year. The airline counts 19 routes to European destinations at present, and aims to have increased this to 25 by June. It is also in discussions regarding a potential partnership with Cityjet.

The biggest threat to the future success of the airline is the economy and the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS), Lang confides. “We are aiming to have an environmentally friendly fleet, which is why we are not so focused on jets, which tend to be less fuel-efficient.”