A group of Birmingham businessmen are bucking the troubled aviation industry trend by launching a new airline offering flights to Vienna and Dubai.
Air Sylhet, which is run from an office in Handsworth, will see its first flight take off in less than three weeks.
The airline will offer flights to Austria and the UAE out of Manchester and London Stansted airports when it launches on November 9.
The launch of the airline is the culmination of nearly three years of planning, and comes at a time when many airlines are struggling to survive.
The combination of soaring fuel prices and a drop in demand because of the credit crunch has meant many firms – particularly smaller companies offering budget flights – were finding things very tough.
In September, national airline firm XL Airways – one of the largest holiday companies in the UK – went into administration, stranding thousands of customers abroad.
But Air Sylhet chairman Kabir Khan, from Birmingham, said he was confident the potential market for the new service was huge, even in the current economic climate.
And he added Air Sylhet believed it could exploit a gap in the market by targeting destinations poorly served by other airlines.
As well as Vienna and Dubai, Air Sylhet aims to provide a service to Bangladesh, starting up next year.
Mr Khan said: “We recognise that we are bucking the trend by launching a new airline at a time when others have struggled, but the difference between our offering compared to others is that we provide a complete service to high and exacting standards, but we offer it at a rate which is value for money.
“We are not looking to compete with ‘low frills’ airlines. We are concentrating on a more distinct approach of safe, value-driven, point-to-point services which provide consistent, reliable products and fares appealing to both leisure travellers and the business community.”
The company also said there were signs the market would get better for airline firms in 2009, after a very difficult year so far.
In a statement on the company’s website, it said: “Oil prices are declining and this trend looks set to continue, reducing the single greatest burden on an airline’s balance sheets. The dollar is also declining, meaning that aviation costs (lease rates, fuel etc.) that are usually expressed in dollars are also declining.
“Aircraft are becoming available in the lease market and these are on more reasonable terms, allowing airlines to acquire new aircraft at acceptable prices to service new and growing routes. Charter airlines are being steadily chased out of the short haul market by the low cost carriers, into medium haul routes not explored before. This segmentation of the market will help to stabilise charter operators in the face of fierce competition.
“Although distressing, recent airline failures have meant that seat capacity has been significantly reduced, whilst demand has been maintained, meaning that more passengers will be chasing fewer seats.
“The message is simple: if an airline can survive the winter of 2008, then it can expect a bumper year in 2009.”
Air Sylhet was formed by four British-Bangladeshi businessmen from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, three of whom are from Birmingham.
Mr Khan led the team of four starting the firm, which recently successfully leased its first Airbus A320-200, capable of carrying 180 passengers.
Mr Khan said: “In order to be able to provide this service we have had to invest in the very best people – people with the experience and expertise to deliver the quality we are looking for. We have chosen to fly initially to Vienna and then to Dubai, though, given Vienna’s location, it makes it an ideal base to expand our services to include long haul flights to Bangladesh a little further down the line.”