The Swiss carrier has established itself as a trusted link between Lugano and regional airports overlooked by the major airlines. Its focus on premium options and service is winning business clientele.
Established in 2003 with headquarters in Lugano, the main hub of the Italian- speaking southern canton of Switzerland known as Ticino, Darwin Airline flies to more than 20 short-haul destinations in countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Serbia, as well as domestic airports.
The airline markets itself using the slightly incongruous moniker of being an “economy business” airline, and has become the favourite carrier of those travelling to little- served regional destinations such as Crotone, Iasi, Catania and Olbia. Economy business in reality means that Darwin operates economy, premium economy and premium economy-plus seats, with the latter option giving passengers access to VIP lounges in Rome, Valencia and Geneva.
High-end commercial tie-ins are a big part of Darwin’s strategy to enhance its burgeoning reputation as an airline that strives for quality service despite the brevity of many of its flights (some going to Italy from its Swiss hub are barely 25 minutes in duration). One Darwin SAAB Turbo will be bedecked with the San Pellegrino mineral water logo from summer 2013 to mark that brand’s collaboration.
With the fleet expected to expand to eight aircraft by the end of next year, and with codeshares now in place with Czech Airlines (for Prague flights) and Alitalia (for Rome flights), Darwin looks on course to be one of the few post-millennial airline launches in Europe to make it to a 10th anniversary. As former pilot and Darwin CEO Maurizio Merlo tells Monocle: “The aviation business is one of the most difficult and complex ones. The only chance to survive is by being mentally flexible and ready to change quickly where needed.”
Fleet: Six SAAB 2000 Turbo propellers (expanding to eight by the end of the year), fitted with 50 seats each.
Staff: 186 full-time.
Uniform: Dark blue and red shirts, black trousers for male and female staff.
Food and drink: Muffin and croissant for breakfast with orange juice served in glasses, Champagne and sandwiches for lunch, small pizza and red wine for dinner.
In-flight magazine: Monthly title Evolution magazine available on all flights, with a distribution of between 18,000 and 28,000 copies a month.