UK airline Eastern Airways is beefing up its bespoke charter offering in an attempt to bolster its share of the flourishing large-group transportation market. The carrier offers contract charter services to corporate customers, international companies, blue-chip organisations, sports teams, the music industry and private clients.

"We have been a charter provider for a while, but we wanted to provide a special product within this market that would differentiate us from the other players," said Eastern Airways chief operating officer Chris Holliday. The Humberside Airport-based company has rolled out a four-tier service ranging from entry-level Bronze to the top-of-the-range VIP Platinum service. "These customised levels of service will help to meet a wide variety of requirements and appeal to a whole host of existing and potential customers."

Eastern Airways ERJ135,

 © Eastern Airways

Eastern Airways' charter offering is targeted at the 29-50 seat market, using the company's fleet of Embraer ERJ-135 and -145 regional jets. Larger twinjets will be added to the fleet as demand dictates.

"There is a niche market for transportation of groups up to 50 passengers - it is a comfortable market to be in," he added. "We are willing, however, to add a larger type such as the Bombardier CRJ900 or Embraer 170 if there is enough demand for a product like this. Ultimately we are led by market requirements,"

Although Eastern has a fleet of larger regional aircraft such as the Saab 2000 and BAE Systems Jetstream 41s, "turboprops don't appeal to bespoke charter customers", Holliday conceded.

Eastern Airways began operations in 1997, developing a network of scheduled services around the North Sea offshore oil and gas industry with flights from the east coast of the UK to Aberdeen. The company has an ongoing partnership with Bristow to provide fixed-wing flights for oil and gas company employees between Aberdeen and Scatsta airport in the Shetland Islands on behalf of the oil company-led Integrated Aviation Consortium. Bristow then transports the crews offshore via helicopter to destinations in the east and west Shetland basins.

Eastern Airways has a fleet of 29 aircraft flying from 23 airports in the UK, Holland, Denmark, Norway and France. "A lot of our charter work is built on the back of this scheduled service," Holliday said, adding that although the bulk of its business is UK-based, Eastern Airways is looking to expand its bespoke charter service into other markets across Europe.

The operator is also evaluating the thriving oil and gas markets of north and west Africa as possible destinations for its offshore crew shuttle service, he said.

Source: Flight International