Fans of London's City Airport (LCY) will soon have access to four important Italian cities.
Privately-owned carrier Air One launched flights to Milan towards the end of last year followed by Rome on January 8, and it will add services to Genoa and Turin in the coming weeks.
There is little awareness of Air One in the UK. But in its home market Air One has expanded rapidly since its formation 12 years ago. As a full-service airline it is the country's second largest after national carrier Alitalia.
With a 42-strong fleet (plus a further 40 Airbus A320s on order) and an extensive domestic network, Air One has begun spreading its wings overseas.
"The domestic market is saturated,"Claudio Balzarini, the carrier's VP sales, told Business Traveller. "We must expand internationally for future growth."
Its Milan and Rome services to LCY operate twice daily between Monday and Friday with a single flight on Saturday and Sunday.
Because of LCY's restricted runway these flights are operated by two-class RJ70s (a version of the BAe146) which are chartered from Swedish airlineTranswede. Cockpit crew are provided by Transwede; cabin staff by Air One.
Unlike most other operators of this plane type, the 66-seat RJ70s planes used by Air One provide comfortable five-across (3-2) seating with the middle seat of three unsold in business class. (Other BAe146 operators tend to feature cramped six-across 3-3 seating.)
Business class catering is of good quality with the "hand-crafted" look so beloved of Italy's secondary carriers.
Air One uses Milan's close-in Linate airport (10 km from downtown as against Malpensa's 46km). In Rome it uses the city's mainFiumicinofacility.
An advantage for business people is that Air One prices on a sector basis, so there are no advance-booking or minimum-stay rules and its domestic network enables passengers to easily combine cities. In other words, a passenger flying from LCY can visit both Milan and Rome using the same carrier throughout. One-way fares from LCY to either Milan or Rome start at €104.
A further bonus is that Air One is a partner of Lufthansa and is a prospective member of Star Alliance. That means members of Lufthansa's Miles & More or SAS's Eurobonus (two popular loyalty schemes in the UK) can earn miles flying Air One.
But Air One will need to update its website to make it more acceptable for UK customers. Claudio Balzarini agrees: "Our website will be improved in the coming months. At present it's angled more to customers in mainland Europe [prices are displayed only in euros] but this will be changed."
Air One schedules
Monday to Friday flights (morning service only on Saturday; afternoon service only on Sunday):
LCY-Milan departures at 1010 and 1730
Milan-LCY departures at 0840 and 1600
LCY-Rome departures at 1010 and 1650
Rome-LCY departures at 0820 and 1450
For more information go toflyairone.it
Report by Alex McWhirter