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Sion SIR/LSGS

Old 16th May 2017, 21:01
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PowdAir

This start up airline plans to commence operations in December linking Sion SIR/LSGS with six UK and two continental European destinations for the skiing season. At present it appears to be a virtual airline that will use an ACMI operator. It plans to obtain its own AOC in future.

Planned destinations are LTN, SOU, SEN, EDI, BRS, MAN, Hamburg and Antwerp. The aircraft type was initially to be a Fokker 100 but more recently the company was reported to be seeking an A319.

Sion airport is a joint civil/military airfield, but the Swiss Air Force are reportedly to pull out this year leaving the airport in civilian hands. There was a brief series of scheduled flights to LHR last February by Swiss using a Helvetica ERJ190 and a further series is planned for next winter . Other than that I am unaware of any other scheduled operations from Sion by other than small aircraft. Principal civilian users up to now have been executive jets and light g.a.

So far discussion in this forum has been conducted via individual airport threads. The SEN thread has carried a lot of the news and discussion. But recent posts on that thread have prompted me to open this new thread in the hope of attracting a wider audience, hopefully including those with experience of Sion operations.

Last edited by Tagron; 16th May 2017 at 21:46. Reason: title
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Old 17th May 2017, 12:22
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This is a heck of a start-up operation. Substantial sums of money would have to change hands before this project could become a reality. Given that it's unlikely that this virtual airline would have assets to secure adequate finance, the individuals involved must have deep pockets or supportive private backers.

I've read a few posts pointing out that Swiss have demonstrated there is a demand for what PowdAir are planning. There is one difference. To Swiss it will just be a route - not for one moment will the flights to Sion be 'make or break' for them.

One last thought. What exactly does an airline, that seems to only exist for the benefit of those partaking in winter sports, do when then snow on the piste melts away?
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Old 17th May 2017, 12:45
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One last thought. What exactly does an airline, that seems to only exist for the benefit of those partaking in winter sports, do when then snow on the piste melts away?
If they were an airline, it would probably mean wet leasing the fleet to an operation that need the capacity in the European summer.

Problem is that they aren't an airline, they will have no AOC and will essentially be a glorified travel agent. I would think they'll have a dickens of a job maintaining cash flow, especially as the winter ski season is so much shorter than the summer sun season - the former, largely governed by when the uplift to the slopes begins and ends, is at best December to April - 5 months. They could easily wind up with 2-3 months of negligible revenue coming in, and lots of staff wages and overheads to pay.

If it were Dragons Den I think I'd be "out" on this venture.
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Old 17th May 2017, 13:00
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Sion is closing between 19th Sept and 30th October for runway resurfacing. Apart from that there’s no big plans.

Aside from the half term Helvetic rotation from LHR and ad-hoc charters Sion see’s very little commercial traffic. Powdair want to base an aircraft there and operate 24 rotations on a 6 day week, that’s a big step for Sion, Powdair and whoever they’ve chosen to operate their schedule – with A319 from a Danish AOC holder apparently (it’s a moving picture). They’ll need to base crews there, put some line MX there and beyond water, coffee and ice cubes there’s no catering facilities either. Imagine the chaos if their 1 busy A319 goes AOG somewhere, especially at SIR itself. Their schedule will go out of the window in a heartbeat with very few service recovery options.

Virtual airline is an emerging business model with little success so far. Citywing at IOM was a VA with Van Air operating the schedule. When they went AOG for non-tech reasons Citywing tried to cover the schedule with a (presumably very expensive) Titan AC. 15 days later after operating a fraction of their schedule they were in liquidation. Deep pockets indeed are required to run the proposed Sion operation.

ATNotts I’m out too.
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Old 17th May 2017, 13:56
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Interested to know where this virtual airline is based and under which authority it is controlled. If I spend my money booking a flight, is my money protected? If it's controlled under the UK CAA it will have ATOL cover and that is very expensive and the CAA are very particular about who they will allow to sell tickets. There is no mention of an ATOL number on the website so If another authority is ensuring compliance, where are they? Plus who is ensuring all is legit? Sion is a very difficult airport to fly to/from and requires quite specific aircraft as it is Cat C with quite strict weather minima. Any airline flying for a virtual airline will want huge deposits up front to cover DOC's and potential passenger liability claims. Don't think I will be parting with any money in a hurry.
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Old 17th May 2017, 14:47
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Mr. Blue Sky

They are based in Ireland but they don't hold an AOC so aren't under the control of any authority. Regulatory compliance will between whichever AOC holder Powdair do a deal with and their respective local CAA. Assuming Powdair will be acting as a ticketing agent selling flight only tickets on behalf of the AOC holder no ATOL protection is required. ATOL protection is only required if they sell "Flight-Plus" hotel or car rental or if the flight is part of a package tour.
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Old 17th May 2017, 15:26
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And lowcostholidays folded last summer with over 100,000 advance bookings. Somehow they operated without ATOL protection in place, and operated with a bond of just 50,000 euros. PowdAir. Caveat Emptor
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Old 17th May 2017, 15:27
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OK Flight_Mode.

So if it all goes to the great hangar in the sky from where do you claim your money back? The AOC Holder? Surely any AOC holder is not going to take that risk? So reading between the lines Powdair will just be a ticket provider for the AOC holder? All rather worrying in my opinion.
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Old 17th May 2017, 16:23
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No idea MBS. I’m not a consumer law expert but I assume you’ll attempt to recover your money from the party you concluded a contract with. When Powdair’s operational structure is revealed all will become clear. Paying by credit card and insurance covering airline failure is a good idea.
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Old 17th May 2017, 22:04
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The Sion weather minima and associated procedures make for interesting reading. To summarise briefly: -
Landing, visibility 5km. Night landings, only RW25 approved.
Take off, visibility 5km, but 1500m if RW25 High Performance Departure used.. RW07 only Standard Departure available
Night departures RW25 only . HP Departure required . RW07 not approved

The reason for the 5km minimum is that the IGS and RNAV approaches are visual from 5.8 miles and the Standard Departures include a visual segment - essentialy an extended racetrack in the valley to gain altitude. The gradient is only 4.8%, so not too demanding. But the High Performance Departure (necessary in lower visibilities and at night) is a straight climb out ahead and requires 13.4%.to 7000feet..

Now consider these minima in the context of an operation claiming to run four rotations per day every day for six days in the middle of winter. . Of course they may be expecting a major pruning of frequencies in the light of actual bookings.

I cannot recall any announcement or mention of the ownership or the names of post holders in this venture. This may not seem important to potential ticket purchasers, but I suspect those connected to the industry would like to have some idea of the experience and technical competence of key players, The only attributable statement I can find is from the Marketing Manager. Have I missed something ?,
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Old 17th May 2017, 22:22
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I thought that the whole venture was being promoted by the local community, or is my memory playing tricks?
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Old 18th May 2017, 10:11
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Tagron

Powdair Limted was registered in Dublin on 4th April 2017.

2 Directors are:

Simon Rolfe, Poole, Dorset
Tristan Taylor, Bracknell, Berkshire

The company has a total share capital of €1,000,000 made up of 1m shares at €1 each.

1,000 shares have been issued to NT Foundry Limited in the UK. The rest remain unissued.

NT Foundry is solely owned by Tristian Taylor.

Tristan owns Swinley Bike Hub and is a self-styled investor in Sports, Leisure & Tourism Start Up's.

(all the above info is in the public domain, I’m not posting anything that isn’t)

Zoë Ombler said some interesting things to Rhône FM yesterday
http://www.rhonefm.ch/fr/news/site//les-billets-de-la-compagnie-aerienne-powdair-en-vente-des-le-6-juin-838912

Summary:

Tickets go on sale on June 6th
Ticket price “fixed” at £140 each way inc. ski equipment
Hope to carry 63,000 PAX between mid-December and mid-April
If all goes well they’ll operate a reduced summer timetable
Project is a long term
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Old 19th May 2017, 10:42
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From a skiers point of view, I am struggling to understand the business model. The majority of ski accommodation is let weekly, mostly Sat-Sat (some Sun-Sun). Powdair indicate they are flying 6 days a week with one ac, so for 4 days they are looking at short break holiday makers (which to be fair tend to be at the high end of the market) and second home owners. Looking at some of the destinations I can't see a high density of second home owners in a limited area of Switzerland.


When you look at other ski regions, airports such as Chambéry and Grenoble are deserted Mon-Fri. Likewise most skiers are aware of airports with poor minimas and don't like the risk, even Jet2 abandoned CMF for last season.


I'm probably out as well!
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Old 23rd May 2017, 14:48
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The latest news from Powdair is here The powdair News

Interesting to note they are going to be operating 2 aircraft from Sion, not 1 as previously announced.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 17:57
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There was no way they could have operated the proposed schedule using only one aircraft. Four rotations per day to the UK could not have worked due to the restricted opening hours of Sion airport. That's before even considering the need for some schedule padding to take account of the various minor delays that typically may occur in day to day airline operations. And of course the weather and minima factor.

Plus, with a u/s aircraft, what would be their chances of obtaining a short notice substitute with a Sion qualified crew ? Quite likely any replacement would have to use Bern,. Basel or Geneva.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 20:59
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Small cog

Thanks for your observations on Sion IFR operations. Its good to hear from someone with practical experience of the issues

I was thinking of the situation where a pilot would need to obtain the basic qualification quickly. It does appear to be still self briefing but it is not clear to me how instantaneous would be the response.. The present limits appear to be 8km/8000ft in this case. I don't know if this represents a change compared with 2013.

And perhaps I should have said "aircraft and crew" because it seems to me the operator still needs to have approval too, so any operator called in to carry out short notice service cover would need to have organised the necessary approvals in advance.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 22:48
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wow...big bunch of naysayers on here...my 2 penny:

1. Money will be protected if they have a decent res system as with any start up airline the acquiring bank / PSP will normally require 100% retention until coupon / ticket flown. ie if they go belly up you get your money back.
ATOL is only for flights and accommodation - not seat only flights - this is same for 90% of EU carriers - your not protected! and actually in a worse position with a bigger well established carrier as their retention may be negligible.
2. Trying to tar a 16 week operator with the same brush as CityWing in IOM is a tad unfair as they operated thin routes with a dodgy eastern bloc operator on a Cat B AOC - not quite the same as operating 20-500 seats depending on type they go for from a fully IOSA EASA AOC operator!
3. There appears to be a valid smokescreen to ensure contracts and operators are in place with the right aircraft and the right frequency for the airports and routes, without the media and everyone picking holes in it before its done.
4. If you looked at the CAA stats for GVA from December to April, I think I'd actually do the same - Valais after all is one of the major and highest destinations of all ski resorts with 6 "super resorts" with guaranteed snow due to altitude.
5. Have you actually thought they might be actually operating virtual for this season whilst their application is submitted for next season, eminently sensible from where im sitting!
6. Virtual carrier with correct contracts, pay deposits for aircraft for the contract period which looks like Dec 14th to April 16th - pay the operating costs, and sell the seats.
7. They walk away on April 17th with not a care in the world about the aircraft and no liability as the a/c would already next day switch to routes planned and scheduled later this year.
8. Operating into SIR often as i do and with RNPAR 0.1 it offers much better minimas and to be honest they will only have 10 days a season in winter they are closed, it is not just a Sion problem - typically those days affect most of Switzerland so the divs will either be Bern or Basle - we div daily in our operating lives and this is not a real drama.
9. My bet is a couple of E170/190 will be operating - these are the perfect a/c for Sion.
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Old 24th May 2017, 12:27
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Well I would certainly welcome a regular service out of Sion but I really wonder about the reported plans (ie. I find them very ambitious). But I really wish them well !

As for Airport qualification B I read "To achieve this authorisation, the pilot must successfully complete the training, either on the aircraft or in an approved simulator". Not sure this can be achieved overnight...
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Old 25th May 2017, 07:03
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Originally Posted by Small cog View Post
But you can also operate into Sion by completing the online self briefing. By cat B in my early post I was referring to airfield ops as in Cat A, B, C, not the local named type of qualification.
Interesting. Would you have any specifics about this "self briefing" procedure (ie. links) ?
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Old 26th May 2017, 07:11
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Originally Posted by Small cog View Post
You provided a link yourself in an earlier post.
Now you got me confused - where does it mention on said page that one can get Type B Qualification by self qualification ?

Or are we speaking of two different things ?
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