In 2015 the company El Teu Soci Aeri (TSA) started offering an air taxi service from Andorra–La Seu d’Urgell airport to different European destinations. Director of the company, professional pilot Manel Pinó told all-andorra.com about the company’s plans and commercial aviation’s market development in Andorra:
The main service we offer is an aero taxi from Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell airport, including transfer to the airport and back.
Today Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell airport is not generally well-known on the aviation map, because it only started serving commercial flights very recently. That’s why its fees are more than competitive. I would say that they are the cheapest not only in Spain, but in all Europe. For example, it’s 10 times less than in Nice and 6 times less than in Ibiza.
As for jet fuel, in Andorra–La Seu d’Urgell airport it’s about 10% more expensive than in other European airports. The reason is a question of logistics and the fact that there are few flights from this airport. The supplier for jet fuel is BP. For commercial flights we pay 70 cents per liter or 700 euros per 1,000 liters (jet fuel cost without taxes). Jet fuel for private aviation is more expensive – the price of 1 liter is 2.40 euros without taxes. But anyway we are still very competitive.
In Ibiza we pay 600 euros just for landing. In Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell airport we pay 150 euros for landing plus passenger fees (10-15 euros for each passenger). I presume that their tariffs will be increased in the future.
This fact has a direct impact on commercial aviation’s development prospects. The number of requests is rising. So I can say that commercial aviation has a lot of potential here.
It’s also important to point out that Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell airport is small, so security control is very fast. It’s very convenient as people don’t waste time.
The only problem today is that we are restricted to day time flights. The airport doesn’t have an automatic navigation system and runway lights, which would allow aircraft to fly at night. But the airport authorities are working on it and I believe that in the near future it will have all the necessary operational systems.
Flying range depends on the number of people on board. Our jet Cessna Citation, with a capacity for 8 passengers, can fly for 3.5 hours without refueling. During our first year we had flights to Madrid, Ibiza, Nice, Paris as well as to some Italian cities.
It’s easy to book the aircraft – we need just 3 hours to be ready. But normally requests should be made at least 24 hours in advance. We need to know the number of passengers on board, the destination, the date and the time. Once we have it, we prepare perform the quotation for our customers with full information about the final price, including landing and airport fees as well as an arrival time.
The tariff depends on the destination. Flight time is normally fixed. One flight hour costs 2,500-3,000 euros (this price includes all fees). For example, the flight from Andorra–La Seu d’Urgell to Madrid is less than 1 hour. So the price would be almost 3,000 euros for 8 passengers.
By next summer we hope to be offering another type of service. There is another trend – a medical transportation or fly ambulance service. It’s also a very important development for Andorra. Nowadays, there is no such service, in spite of the fact that it is in great demand. As you know, Andorra is a popular ski resort. Unfortunately, skiing can involve injuries. Actually, in case of emergency, transportation is only available by helicopter to Barcelona (Andorra’s hospital services are limited). We are ready to start providing people with medical flights from Andorra-La Seu airport directly to the biggest European medical centers (Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria).
The helicopter service market. This is the second positive development trend. As far as I know, Andorra is going to have an international heliport soon. In general, this project should be good for commercial aviation development in Andorra. It is not our business, it is another niche. But they will not be competitors. Indeed the opposite, it’s a parallel business we can develop together, sharing the responsibilities.
Helicopters are slow and not suitable for long distances. A helicopter’s average speed is 120 knots. Cessna Citation’s speed is about 380 knots. So time and comfort are our main advantages.
At the same time, a helicopter service is indispensable to get passengers from Andorra–La Seu d’Urgell airport directly to Andorra, avoiding traffic jams at the Andorran/Spanish boarder. It’s very important for businessmen or famous people. For example, last summer Elton John landed in Andorra-la Seu and went to Andorra by helicopter, where his concert was scheduled.
Moreover, helicopters can serve the people who travel by Boeing and Airbus (the nearest airports which accept big aircraft are Barcelona and Lleida, respectively 200 and 150 km from Andorra). Andorra-la Seu airport’s runway is only 1,267 m long and so has restrictions for some aircrafts.
So, I have told you about our main service. But we have another company and business – this is our pilot school: Pyrenees Flight Center. We are two partners. I have been involved in the aviation business since 1982. I graduated from National aviation school in Salamanca (Spain), then I continued my studies in the US. I have experience as captain of Boeing 737s. My partner – Manel Campos – is a first officer. He is an engineer with a diploma from Barcelona university, but due to the growing aviation market and his own passion for aviation, he became a professional pilot and now focuses on flights business.
TSA is an Andorran company. Pyrenees Flight Center – is a Spanish one. We started this business 3 years ago. I was an instructor for many years and taught different levels of people: professional pilots as well as students with zero knowledge. And I still can provide people with this trainings.
To become a professional pilot costs around 50,000 euros. That’s starting from zero level. It could be an additional investment of approximately 20,000 – 25,000 euros. You also must have experience. When you finish your initial studies you only have 200 flight hours.
But the end justifies the means. Once you have all this experience you can more easily find a job. The reason is that the aviation business is growing very fast. I suppose this trend will continue into the near future.