Nestled away in the far northwest of the German state of Baden-Württemberg is the city of Mannheim. Located just a stone’s throw away from the picturesque university city of Heidelberg, Mannheim is well connected when it comes to transport. For many, it is a key railway interchange, but did you know it is also home to a small airport, and, with it, a small airline? Let’s take a look at an interesting little carrier by the name of Rhein-Neckar Air.
How the airline came to be
Rhein-Neckar Air was established in the wake of the collapse of Cirrus Airlines. This regional carrier had been the only one serving Mannheim before it folded in January 2012. Mannheim City Airport (MHG) is a small facility with a 1,066-meter long runway, situated on the outskirts of the city near the stadium of local football team SV Waldhof Mannheim.
At face value, you might wonder why Mannheim needs scheduled airline services directly to the city. After all, its Hauptbahnhof central railway station offers competitive high-speed routes both within Germany and to foreign destinations like Paris. Furthermore, Frankfurt Airport, a hub for German air travel, is just over half an hour from Mannheim by rail.
However, several key local businesses argued that a scheduled commercial airline being present in Mannheim was key to supporting the local economy. After all, the Rhein-Neckar metropolitan area is home to significant multinational corporations such as Heidelberg Cement and SAP. It was in their interest for Mannheim to have a direct air connection.
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As such, a small, business-focused regional carrier named Rhein-Neckar Air was established in 2013, the year after Cirrus Airlines had ceased operations. Its first flight, from Mannheim to Berlin’s now-closed Tegel Airport, took off in March 2014. Berlin has remained a key business-centric destination for Rhein-Neckar Air, as has Hamburg.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the way we work. While businesspeople used to hop on a flight to attend a meeting in another city, the health crisis has seen such discussions take place online instead. As such, Rhein-Neckar Air suspended these routes until further notice last September, citing low demand levels.
However, the airline does also operate leisure services to Sylt Airport (GWT). Sylt is an island in the far north of Germany, which enjoys seasonal air traffic from all over Germany and even as far afield as Switzerland. Rhein-Neckar Air flies there not only from Mannheim (3x weekly, 90-minute flights), but also from Kassel (2x weekly, 60-minute flights).
A small, all-Dornier fleet
Rhein-Neckar Air’s slogan Fliegen wie privat means “like flying privately.” It certainly offers passengers an exclusive experience, with free parking and a comprehensive onboard food and drink service. The carrier is a virtual airline, meaning that it doesn’t have its own air operator’s certificate (AOC), and instead has its flights operated by MHS Aviation.
The number of aircraft with which it does this is difficult to ascertain. The company’s own website states that three Dornier 328s operate its flights, while Planespotters.net lists two, and ch-aviation.com shows just one of these 31-seaters. In any case, it is an interesting little carrier that will hopefully overcome the suspension of its Berlin and Hamburg routes by establishing a strong presence on its corridors from Mannheim and Kassel to Sylt.
Did you know about Rhein-Neckar Air? Perhaps you’ve even flown with this interesting little carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!