powdair takes a huge jump into Sion for winter sports enthusiasts

16 June, 2017

Irish virtual airline powdair plans to launch a winter programme of flights into Sion, the capital of the canton of Valais in Switzerland. The airline will inaugurate flights from eight destinations across Belgium, Germany and the UK from the middle of December 2017 using two Embraer E170s or E190s operated on an ACMI basis by an as yet announced carrier. It is ultimately seeking to raise around €5 million to apply for its own Irish Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) and manage its own operations.

** UPDATE - 29JUL17 - powdair has now confirmed it will utilise two 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s sourced flown Backbone Aviation of Denmark and which will be flown under an ACMI contract. **

The airline, one of many start-up airlines currently tracked by CAPA through its comprehensive news channel, plans to operate 24 weekly flights into Sion during the winter schedule from December 14, 2017 through to April 16, 2018. These will comprise a five times weekly link from London Luton, four times weekly schedules from Antwerp and Southampton, three times weekly frequency from Bristol and twice weekly flights from Edinburgh, Hamburg, London Southend and Manchester.

powdair says it is "already planning summer routes too," but here's the airline proposed flight schedule for winter 2017/2018…

TABLE - powdair Proposed Launch Schedule

The airline is an example of a start-up that has acknowledged a small niche in the market and is aiming to fill this need with a dedicated schedule of flights based around both short-break and week-long travel packages. It has been founded to support the needs of the winter sports market and says it understands the market as its backers are enthusiasts themselves. "We're skiers and snowboarders, just like you. The mountains are our passion and our mission is to get you there as effortlessly as possible," says the airline's promotional material.

"Gone are the days of flying into one of Switzerland's much busier airports before embarking on a two or three hour transfer journey to your destination. powdair connects you to your favourite winter resorts such as Verbier, Saas-Fee, Crans-Montana, Zermatt and Nendaz via Sion Airport at the very heart of the Valais region," it adds in its marketing material.

None of its eight routes are currently served, although some direct connectivity into Sion is currently offered by Swiss International Air Lines and fellow Swiss carrier Helvetic Airways. This summer a weekly flight is provided by Helvetic to Palma de Mallorca using an Embraer E190, while the same carrier will also resume a weekly winter service for national carrier Swiss from London Heathrow during January and February 2018, also using an E190, following the successful introduction of flights in February this year.

It is tough for any start-up to succeed in the competitive European aviation market and although powdair will face no direct scheduled competition on its routes, it will face price pressure from established airlines serving the Swiss market and tour operator backed charter offerings.

The Valais is one of Europe's premier winter sports regions in the very heart of the Alps with destinations such as Zermatt, Saas Fee, Verbier and Crans Montana - some of the world's top ski resorts - within easy reach of Sion Airport. powdair believes this convenience will mean consumers will welcome its tailored flights ahead of those offered into other airports.

"The response we have already seen on social media shows the kind of interest people have in the area and regular, scheduled flights into Sion are long overdue," says Zoë Ombler, head of commercial for powdair. "It's not every day that we get to launch an airline and especially one that opens up a completely new route into an airport that is so close to some of the world's best ski resorts."