A new airline starting up is something that always draws our attention, this is why we decided to learn a bit more about the latest airline to start up in Spain, Melilla Airlines.
Melilla Airlines, which, by the way, operates under a virtual airline model flying an ATR-42 aircraft provided by Spanish charter airline Aeronova, has a very defined purpose, to link the Spanish enclave of Melilla, on the North African coast, to the Spanish mainland. In this role, Melilla Airlines fills the gap left in the market by Málaga-based Helitt Airlines, that abandoned this market after it ceased regular flights to focus on the charter market.
We have got in touch with Melilla Airline's managing director, Ángel Ronda, who explained us this project in more detail.
Q: How did Melilla Airlines start? Who is behind this project?
Airlines started up in January 2013, but the project had been at a planning stage since mid-2012, I have personally being working on it from even earlier, but this has been the time when we have managed to get a solid group of investors to back the project.
Q: What fleet and routes are you operating?
A: We started in April 2013 with a single ATR-42 on the Melilla-Málaga route. This model has been proven to be very successful and much liked by our passengers. WE are expecting to get a second aircraft in a couple of months, which will allow us to eventually open a new route from Melilla to Sevilla.
Q: How much traffic do you expect on your routes? Are there any competitors?
A: We are aiming to transport 50,000 passengers in our first year and we are already meeting our expectations. In this market there is also Air Nostrum, I call it "healthy competition".
A small but steady market
Building an airline from scratch is quite a challenge, even more, when you are operating in a very narrow and local market, even if it has doubled in size in the last decade, from 0.5 to nearly 1M passengers per year. Let's not forget, though, that air routes between the Spanish enclave of Melilla, with its large number of government workers and military, and the mainland, where most of them need to travel regularly, provide a regular critical mass of travelers.
It's a market that is not unlike that of a public transport operator and one that an operator with the right cost and capacity mix can make a good living off, as long as it doesn't overstretch itself (something that, in any case, happens quite often in the airline industry!).