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New Swiss airline FlyBAIR launches crowdfunding campaign

Initiators of a new regional "people's airline" to be based in Switzerland’s capital Bern, have started a crowdfunding campaign to launch it ahead of the 2020 summer holiday travel season.

FlyBAIR, which was presented to the public on 1 November, plans to begin operating daily direct flights from Bern to several European holiday destinations in Spain, Italy and Greece from 1 May 2020. Later in the year, it hopes to connect the city to a major hub such as Munich, Amsterdam or London.

Currently, no commercial airlines serve the airport in the Swiss capital. Passengers must travel to the airports at Geneva, 93mi (150km) to the southwest, or Zurich, 75mi to the northeast, in order to reach any other destination by air.

On its website, FlyBAIR explains that it needs 2.5 million Swiss francs ($2.5 million) to launch and is aiming to raise 1 million francs from the citizens Bern in the first 30 days of its kickstarter campaign.

As of early morning on 8 November local time, 415,000 francs, or about 41% of that goal had been reached.

"Our idea is crazy," the website states. "We are calling on the population of Bern to support our dream because we believe that it is high time that an airline connects Bern to Europe again."

In a statement, the carrier says it is trying a new business model, and naming itself a "virtual airline". Its founding team is working with several partners including established travel agencies like Hotelplan and TUI to sell the tickets, Lions Air to run its operations, and German Airways for the aircraft. Embraer E190s and Dash 8-400s are planned for the venture, the company says.

Initiators of the project say there is a strong demand for flights directly from the capital, and believe that they have found a winning formula.

"The slim corporate structure, low fixed costs as well as the uncompromising focus on the demand – all these things differentiate FlyBAIR from previous projects," Bern airport chief executive and member of the FlyBAIR board Urs Ryf says. "We have learned from the mistakes of the past. This is no guarantee for success, but they are important factors that will contribute to the project’s success."

In the past several years, numerous airline projects have tried to launch profitable service from Switzerland's Bern airport, but all have failed. Most recently SkyWork Airlines ceased operations in August 2018, leaving 11,000 passengers stranded.

The airline says that some destinations can already be booked through travel agents, and it will begin selling tickets itself in early 2020.

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