Right now only one airline plies the route between London City (LCY) and the Swiss banking capital of Zurich. There are up to seven flights a day.
But by April 10 this increasingly popular business route will be covered by no fewer than three carriers providing a whopping 15 flights a day (more than from Heathrow) with all operating BAe146 jets.
Incumbent carrier Swiss is set to do battle with the likes of British Airways, which will operate up to four flights a day from next Sunday, and Air France who arrives on April 10 with a three flights a day service (see Online News, March 15). If that wasn't enough, Swiss will itself add an extra daily flight from LCY on April 10 to compete with BA's more business-minded timings.
But aren't there now too many seats? After all, LCY is considered something of a niche airport and no other route currently supports more than two carriers.
"When we looked at serving Zurich," says Peter Simpson, MD of BA City Flyer (the Manchester-based BA division which operates the LCY flights), "we did not realise that Air France also intended to fly the route. Nevertheless we believe our product will be successful."
For its part, Swiss is beefing up its timings with both an earlier flight from LCY and a later return from Zurich which provides for a full day's work at either end of the route and the ability to save on hotel accommodation.
It means Swiss will offer a spread of departures from LCY starting at 0700 and finishing at 1950. In the return direction, Swiss departs Zurich between 0715 and 2000.
Richard Gooding, MD of LCY, told Business Traveller, "Ten years ago we would have been nervous of having more than one competitor on any one route. But what we have seen is that extra competition develops the market. Our Zurich route has been crying out for choice and passengers will welcome it."
What it means for the consumer is that fares on this route will remain keenly priced (for example, expect greater seat availability at the cheaper tariff tiers). In addition, the airlines concerned may hand out bonus loyalty miles and other perks to attract passengers.
In other news, BA City Flyer will honour all its existing LCY routes to Edinburgh, Madrid, Milan Malpensa and Frankfurt but it will also add services to Glasgow (in addition to Zurich). It will also boost Edinburgh from seven to eight flights a day.
All BA flights are operated by 110-seater BAe146 jets with a two-class layout on the international and a one-class configuration on the domestic routes. Product is to regular BA standards.
Says Peter Simpson, "We are now the second biggest airline at LCY with a 20 per cent share of the market [Belgian carrier VLM is first with 24 per cent]. This summer we will be operating 250 flights a week and expect to carry 600,000 passengers a year at LCY with 83 per cent of our passengers travelling on business."
Report by Alex McWhirter