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13 March, 2006 - 17:32 By Staff Reporter

Plug pulled on Oxford-Cambridge air link

The scheduled air service between the varsity towns of Oxford and Cambridge has hit the skids just a month and a half after it was launched.The scheduled air service between the varsity towns of Oxford and Cambridge has hit the skids just a month and a half after it was launched.

The operator of the service, Sky Commuter had pitched it as an alternative to rail or road travel, establishing it to satisfy perceived demand for a quick, cheap and easy transport link between the two academic and business centres.

It is understood that the principal investor in Sky Commuter, Mercia Capital withdrew its backing after load factors failed to venture above 30 per cent throughout the service’s short lifetime.

The market research conducted by Sky Commuter indicated a general willingness to use the link - it forecast between 100 and 200 passengers a day – but this did not translate into bookings. Business Weekly understands that the CEO of Sky Commuter, Nick Rowley continued his search for a replacement investor up until just hours before the announcement was made on the company's website.

A company statement said: "After 12 weeks of solid marketing, press coverage and interviews with past passengers it has become evident that the requirement for air travel on the route is not sustainable to even operate an eight seat aircraft. Route studies complied before the start of operation had indicated a stronger requirement for the service than has actually materialised.

"All passengers with current advance bookings will be informed in writing of the cancellation of the route and will receive a full refund.

"Sky Commuter will continue operations in ad hoc aircraft charter and schedules to various corporate, social & sporting events."

The withdrawal of the service represents the third false start for a business case that on paper looks compelling. The flight took just 22 minutes, much quicker than travelling by train or car and with tickets priced at £99; it was about £30 cheaper than a first-class train ticket.

The Varsity flight was first launched unsuccessfully in the 1960’s, with fledgling venture Alpha One making an abortive attempt to resurrect it in 2005.

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