St Helena's Atlantic Star Airlines plans launch in 2016

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UK start up Atlantic Star Airlines plans to begin operating between London and the British overseas territory of St Helena from early 2016 when its first airport is expected to be completed.

Atlantic Star chief executive Richard Brown, tells Flightglobal that the carrier will cater to niche inbound tourism, VFR traffic and potentially become a cargo operator for the south Atlantic island - bringing in essential supplies which are currently carried by boat.

A Boeing 757 aircraft will be used to ply the London-St Helena route which is expected to be provided by Icelandair subsidiary Loftleidir, under an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) agreement.

Options to move to a dry lease agreement after one year of operation are being considered and additional 757s could be deployed by the airline depending on demand.

“We have formulated our business plan on serving London, the 757 is unique in its ability to operate from a short runway on a long-haul operation,” says Brown: “Fundamentally the Saints want a London route, the hotel developers want London, 80% of the market will be UK-based.”

To get off the ground, Atlantic Star will need to win traffic rights to operate to and from the island, which will be offered through an open tender organised by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and consultants AviaSolutions. Brown expects an offer to tender imminently and is confident of acquiring the rights based on a business plan he says would bring economic development to the British dependency.

If Atlantic Star is successful in its bid, services could begin as soon as February 2016, the date by which the new airport being constructed by Basil Read is expected to be completed, and certification flights could be carried out at an even earlier date.

Services to London would be offered on a weekly scheduled basis with a technical stop somewhere in Europe and Africa along with a stop at Cape Town on the return leg.

Other destinations under consideration include a shuttle service to Ascension island, a Falkland islands link and services to west African countries and South Africa.

Brown estimates Atlantic Star could carry up to 30,000 passengers per annum within five years and could make a lucrative business from importing fresh blue tuna and other fish stocks from the islands to Europe.

The carrier will offer Icelandair’s three class system on board and while Brown says the first years will be “financially challenging” he expects the carrier to become “sustainable” once it reaches the 30,000 passenger mark, with ticket yields making up the bulk of income. A further 10% of the airline's revenue will come from freight, Brown estimates.

The airline is owned by Brown along with Carl Haslem its director of operations and Andrew Radford, director of compliance and regulations with further financial backing expected once operations begin.