This week Great Dane Airlines has launched new scheduled flights from a base at Aalborg in Denmark, initially serving Dublin, Nice and Edinburgh. The start-up believes that with the deployment of two 118-seat, former Flybe, Embraer E195s it has the right-sized equipment to provide new point-to-point connectivity into Denmark’s fourth largest city, located in the North Jutland region, close to Denmark’s northern tip.
The scheduled flights to the three international markets started this week, but the airline actually inaugurated operations earlier this month with a charter service for Danish tour operator Bravo Tours between Aalborg and Rhodes shortly after securing its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Danish regulator. Alongside Bravo Tours it is also operating for Nilles Travel with Crete, Palma de Mallorca and Varna among the destinations it will serve this summer.
But it is the scheduled flights that’s sparked the most interest. In the space of the past three days the flights to Dublin, Nice and now Edinburgh have launched. These will be served on a weekly or twice weekly basis through the summer and could prove demand out of Aalborg.
The idea for Great Dane Airlines arose after a thorough analysis of the need for charter and regional flights from Aalborg. “It soon became clear that the current airlines in the market could not cover the demand that was out of Aalborg, as their seat supply was too large in relation to what the routes could carry,” explains the airline’s founder and CEO Thomas Hugo Møller.
“We identified an under capacity in the northern European market for charter flight and regional routes with the aircraft capacity of between 100 and 120 passengers,” he explains in an exclusive interview with The Blue Swan Daily this week. “This gave us the idea to start an airline with strong local roots.”
With mainline single-aisle aircraft deemed too large for the Aalborg market, the airline has selected the Embraer E195 to hit what it sees as the demand sweetspot. “We decided to look for an aircraft tailored to the region’s needs, and the choice became the Embraer E195, because it fits the regional market. We have also chosen it because of its comfort, with the wide seats and 2×2 seat configuration,” says Mr Møller.
The airline is offering a one-class service with a full cold food service on flights longer than 90 minutes, but with three fare propositions. These range from an economy offer with a complimentary 8kg cabin bag, premium economy, which also includes a 20kg checked bag and reservations, and full flex which has the added benefit of free name or ticket changes.
Mr Møller says Great Dane is taking a prudent path. “We don’t have rapid expansion plans, we are looking to start small and gradually grow bigger,” he says, but the airline does have ambitions to add more direct routes to European cities in the future.
The airline’s initial activities are mainly focused on the leisure market, but once demand is proven then frequencies could be expanded to better meet corporate demand. According to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation airport profiles Aalborg is lacking non-stop connectivity and handled just 1.6 million passengers last year, which was a +5.8% rise over the previous year. Over the first five months of the year traffic much of that gain has been lost with traffic down -8.7% over the same period last year. SAS is currently the largest operator ahead of Norwegian Air
“We are a regional and local airline and we want our costumers to feel that. We will give our costumers a service they will remember. At Great Dane Airlines You are more than just a seat number,” adds Mr Møller.