Ex-Buzz boss plans new no-frills flights to challenge UK rail

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The Independent Online

Tony Camacho, the former boss of Buzz, the low-cost airline, is plotting his return to the aviation industry - by taking on the railways.

Having lost his job when Buzz was bought by Ryanair last April, Mr Camacho has come up with what he believes will become the next generation of no-frills air travel: dirt-cheap flights between Britain's towns and cities.

He hopes to launch his new company, Hop, in the summer with at least three ATR72 propeller aeroplanes and a staff of 90.

Kit Malthouse, the deputy leader of Westminster Council, who is financing the venture, is also chairman of Hop. The pair have hired the corporate finance boutique Cavendish Finance, and hope to raise up to £5m from entrepreneurs and institutional investors in the next few weeks.

"The idea is to focus on UK routes that are not viable to the existing low-cost airlines. We will sell around a third of the seats for under £10 and the plan is to make sure that no single fare is more than £80," said Mr Camacho. "We will be going to the airports which are hungry for business as there are 20 or 30 that have underused capacity."

He said that the routes would be targeted to compete with rail lines that are particularly unreliable.

"Each flight will go there and back from a particular airport and the idea is to do five round trips a day," said Mr Camacho.

"The ideal fleet size is six to seven aircraft to get the efficiencies in the business."

Mr Camacho said it was too early to reveal Hop's list of destinations because he was still finalising deals with the airports. However, he hopes to secure a slot at London Stansted.

The only "frill" passengers could expect to get on Hop, he said, would be an alloca-ted seat.

The idea for Hop originally came from Mr Malthouse. The Conservative councillor "rang me out of the blue when I was at Buzz and said he wanted to see me," said Mr Camacho. "He told me of his plan. I said he was bonkers. He insisted that I read the plan. I told him that it would work if he stripped out all the costs and changed the type of aircraft, so I apologised and we got together."