European air taxi company Blink is scheduled to take delivery on 21 September of its seventh Cessna Citation Mustang as it prepares to sever its operational ties with TAG upon the imminent issue of its aircraft operator's certificate.
The Farnborough, UK-based company is the sole player in the newly created low-cost pan European air taxi niche following the collapse of a clutch of operators and start-ups over the past sixteen months. German-based rival JetBird is readying for operational launch in the coming weeks with the first of 59 Embraer Phenom 100 very light jets on firm order.
"We are growing the company slowly and prudently as we don't want to overstretch ourselves," says Blink co-founder and managing director Peter Leiman, Blink has an total order for 30 Mustangs and expects to take delivery of up to six more aircraft next year - down from the 14 originally planned for 2010.
"This is a tough economic climate but it hasn't dampened the appetite for low-cost travel." Leiman says the bulk of the business is coming from existing private jet customers who are looking to move down the product line into small more cost-efficient models.
Blink is building its network of European bases with Geneva, Switzerland and Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands its most recent additions. "We have explored and beta-tested all sorts of bases including Cannes in the south of France. The aim is to build around 20 primary airport bases from where we can service a network of destinations. This will enable us to slash our repositioning costs and pass on the benefits to our customers in the form of lower fares," says fellow Blink co-founder Cameron Ogden.
He says having its own AOC will allow Blink will regain operational control of the aircraft. "When the AOC is issued this month we will be finally be in charge of our aircraft and our schedules, and this will give us more freedom to expand," Ogden says.
As part of this initiative Blink has introduced a new block charter programme called Blink Foresight, which is based on the distance travelled rather than the more common method of charging passengers by the hour. "The price per mile enables you to calculate the exact flight cost for your trip as the distance between two places remains fixed. How long a flight takes is dependent on so many external factors [airport delays, weather] so a per-hour rate may be open to some interpretation," says Ogden.
Source: Flight International