Excel throws lifeline to smaller operators

Excel throws lifeline to smaller operators

OPERATORS having difficulty finding capacity for their summer 2000 programmes are being offered the services of a new Gatwick-based seat-broker, Excel Aviation.

Excel was set up two months ago by Steve Tomlinson after he resigned from his previous position as sales director for Goldcrest Aviation and Caledonian Airways. He is being supported in his venture by former colleague Phil Wyatt, who is acting as a consultant to Excel.

Tomlinson said they would be drawing on their years of experience in the aviation industry to act as middle men between operators who need seats and airlines who have spare capacity to sell.

"Operators are saying that capacity is far more difficult to get hold off this year than in previous years because of the consolidation of the market into large companies, but this does not mean that there are no seats out there," said Tomlinson.

He added that even though the vertically integrated airlines have fewer seats to sell to independent operators as more of their capacity is being used in-house, it is still possible to find seats for summer 2000. "What we will do is find out which operators want which seats and put their requirements together in a shape that is attractive to the airlines," said Tomlinson.

Excel already has a total of 400,000 seats for summer 2000 on Gatwick-based Sabre Airways and on Air Scandic, which is operated by Luton-based Air Foyle.

"We have also been offered seats on the vertically integrated airlines, although not in any huge volume," said Tomlinson.

"These carriers still have spare capacity, even though more of their flying is being bought by their own operators."

Tomlinson said he is not bringing any extra capacity into the market, but is using his expertise and knowledge of the industry to match operators' and airlines' requirements.

He admitted that Excel is not able to replace all the capacity which has been lost to independent operators.

"We cannot solve everyone's capacity problems, but we can probably find seats that they haven't been able to get hold of," he said.

Excel is chiefly looking at providing charter seats to Europe destinations - mainly the popular Mediterranean resorts - but Tomlinson said he has not ruled out moving into the long-haul market as well.

After experiencing difficulty finding seats for its summer 2000 and 2001 programmes, Cyprus specialist the Libra Group has taken a 25% stake in Excel (Travel Weekly June 21).

"We have found enough seats now for 2000 and most of 2001, but we are making this move to help us alleviate potential capacity problems in the future," said Libra managing director Andreas Drakou.

"We feel that with his experience, Tomlinson will be able to satisfy our plans."

Although the majority of Excel's clients will be independent operators like the Libra Group, Tomlinson said he is not setting himself up as a champion of the independents. "They are a very important part of our business but we are also looking to work with all the larger operators as well. We are happy to do business with any ATOL holder," he said.

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