Air Partner looks to boost indie operator market

Germania is operating Sunvil flights this summer

Air charter broker Air Partner has extended its current UK tour operator contracts into the winter as it looks to boost its business in the sector.

The company has already commenced its summer programme with Sunvil using German-based carrier Germania with the aircraft to remain in operation from Gatwick during the winter. It has also seen a contract extension from Inghams and Espirit Holidays, which is to use Air Partner this winter as well as summer.

The extended contracts are signs of a growing department in Air Partner’s business, which it hopes will drive a boost in the standard of air travel across the entire UK independent tour operator market.

“There has been a market shift that has seen tour operators starved of supply and we felt that we had the opportunity to offer a better supplier,” Paul Argyle, product director, commercial jets at Air Partner told Travel Daily. “It offers a product to smaller tour operators that allows them to compete with existing operators and there has been a great response from clients and passengers about a return to an ‘old age’ of travel.”

The ‘old age’ of travel Argyle refers to is one that simply means a customer has a pre-booked seat, meal onboard and can look at extra legroom seats. With low-cost carriers coming into tour operator programmes more frequently in recent years, Air Partner believes the use of services like its own will raise the profile of smaller operators and offer a better service.

“The risk with using low-cost airlines is that when passengers get on the flight they will realise what they have booked and go direct next time. We are seeing the impact as awareness grows around our full services and around half a dozen operators have come forward to fulfil operations in summer 2014 and beyond,” revealed the company’s inclusive tours manager Jerome Newton. “This will have a positive effect on the UK market and is new which we hope will be a game-changer in operation. We purposely set out to do something different to the competition.”

Sunvil is the company’s third contract in the UK after signings with Inghams/Espirit Holidays and Olympic Holidays with all three hoping the new flights will add value and install a sense of pride in operators that they took the step away from a no-frills standard.

“Differentiation is needed and particularly at the right cost for the tour operator which is where we come in as negotiators and one of the largest companies in the market,” added Newton. “Tour operators want to feel it is part of their own doing that they can offer this kind of service to their customers.”

Travel Daily recently joined Sunvil and Germania on a flight to Greece to sample the new product. We’ll report back soon!

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