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Flying private

It’s a thrilling experience to be on board Hahn Air’s scheduled private jet service. Keith Mwanalushi flew with COO and General Manager Daniel Rudas to gain insight into the airline’s unique operations

Big things come in small packages. That is certainly the case when it comes to German carrier Hahn Air Lines. It is the company with arguably the most unique business model in the aviation industry. 


Hahn Air offers distribution and ticketing services exclusively to transportation companies and travel agents. Every year millions of passengers travel between 4,000 locations using Hahn Air’s HR-169 tickets.


Hahn Air’s flight operations have made headlines since the introduction of scheduled private jet services between Düsseldorf (Germany) and Luxembourg in 2010. The fleet consists of one Cessna Citation CJ4 and two Cessna Citation Sovereigns. The company says both business jets are designed for business travellers seeking first-class comfort, but tickets for scheduled flights are sold at commercial ticket prices. 


When understanding how the airline operates, it is worth looking back at its history. The company was founded in 1994 as an independent German carrier at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport from which the name derives, even though today there is no longer a connection. Since then, it has evolved into several shapes, sizes and colours. 


Captain Daniel Rudas, General Manager and Chief Operational Officer, recalls that by the end of the 1990s and the start of the millennium there was a big, and colourful scene of independent regional air carriers in Germany, including the likes of City-Air and Augsburg Airways. “They flew feeder services to and from the hubs and intra-German routes and by then, low cost carriers had not arrived on the scene,” says Rudas. 


However, the industry started to change when the major flagship carriers began to swallow up smaller regional operators into their own brand. 


For example, in 1996, Augsburg Airways went into cooperation with Lufthansa, becoming the first franchise partner of the Team Lufthansa brand, with other regional airlines soon following. 


Things soon turned tough for independent regional carriers, Rudas says; it became increasingly difficult and complicated for a small carrier not only to compete but to have the necessary infrastructure in place in terms of interlining and connectivity. 


“It was very hard to compete against established legacy carriers so a lot of airlines disappeared. Hahn Air was among the few that were left and we quickly realised that the age of regional air carriers had come to an end.”


After the owners bought out the final shares in Hahn Air, the following years saw several changes at the company, including a rebranding and Rudas taking his own Swearingen Merlin turboprop aircraft in order to join the Hahn Air team at the Frankfurt head office. “We only had a small space and Hahn Air only had about 20 people so that’s when I arrived with a couple of boxes and my tiny aircraft.”


By 2004 the company had minimised flight operations to just a few charter services, with the Merlin to focus on the core business that was interline services and enabling payments via a Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP). With its infrastructure, Hahn Air facilitated the flow of data and funds between travel agencies and airlines. The advantage of such an intermediary organisation is that instead of each travel agency having an individual relationship with each airline, all of the information is consolidated through the BSP. As a result, Hahn Air allows its partner carriers to sell tickets in markets where they are not a member of the BSP themselves, and where they could not normally do business via travel agencies. >>

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