Hasselt, Belgium-based ASL Group is branching out into scheduled flying and will launch a weekly flight from Brussels Airport to Ibiza July 4 using an Embraer ERJ135 featuring a bespoke corporate cabin configuration with 30 seats. This will be followed by a twice-weekly Antwerp-Innsbruck service over the winter months.
Dubbed ASL Fly Executive, the new concept is “placed somewhere between private charter flights and scheduled aviation. It will be a kind of regular service to which you can subscribe individually with one or more people, always with a unique character,” said ASL Group founder and CEO Philippe Bodson.
The company, which manages and operates 35 business jets, started analyzing the concept before Covid-19 as part of the growth ambitions of its Air Charters Europe (ACE) subsidiary, which it launched in 2018 and offers private jet charter flights for groups. The pandemic brought the project to the forefront, Bodson told AIN aboard an ASL Fly Executive demonstration flight on June 9.
ASL Fly Executive operates from and to general aviation terminals, which allows passengers to bypass crowded airports, while the cabins of its ERJ135 and ERJ145 more easily enable social distancing than the 3+3 seat configuration of the typical medium-haul single-aisle commercial airliner. ACE’s ERJ135 and ERJ145 have 1+2 seating layout, allowing passengers to either sit alone or next to someone they know.
“The great interest for ASL Fly Executive confirms our feeling that there is demand for this new and unusual concept,” said Bodson. One day after opening bookings, 40 percent of the inventory for the Brussels-Ibiza flight through the end of August was already sold. To be profitable ASL needs an 80 percent load factor, he told AIN.
Depending on the demand, ASL could extend the flights into September or add a mid-week flight, Bodson said, adding that his team is actively looking at other routes such as Brussels-Malaga. ASL set up its own website to handle online bookings and it also works with travel agents, who receive a 10 percent commission.
Prices start from €495 one-way and are “all-in.” Included in the fare are a drink before the flight, champagne during the flight—“not cava, real champagne,” Bodson stressed—25 kg baggage allowance per person, the possibility of changing the ticket up to two days before the flight, a CO2 compensation contribution, some light snacks adapted to the Covid-19 environment, and a face mask.
ASL rigorously implements the EASA Covid-19 health safety guidelines across its operations, explained group safety manager Maxime Wauters. Crew received targeted training, aircraft are disinfected after each flight; all aircraft are now equipped with a universal precaution kit and a thermometer to take the temperature of a passenger who shows signs of Covid-19; and cabin crew spray passengers’ hands with disinfectant when boarding and communicate to passengers about the health protocol and etiquette. Cabin crew wear plastic gloves and a face mask. ASL requires all passengers wear a mouth/nose covering.