A New Airline For The Balearics: Who Is Uep! Fly?

Uep! Fly is Europe’s newest airline. Meaning hey or hi in Mallorquí, it took to the skies on July 16th. Owned by long-standing Spanish carrier Swiftair, its headquarters is in Palma, and it is initially using two ATR-72s acquired from its parent. It currently connects Palma with both Ibiza and Mahon, with more to come.

Uep Fly ATR-72-500
Uep! Fly began on July 16th from Ibiza to Palma, one of two routes for the new entrant. Photo: via PMI Planespotting.

The ATR-72

Currently, Uep! Fly has two aircraft: a 68-seat ATR-72-500 (EC-KKQ) and a 68-seat ATR-72-200 (EC-LST). Both aircraft come from parent Swiftair, and another is due to be operated shortly.

Kilo Quebec was delivered fresh from ATR back in 2007, ch-aviation.com shows, while Sierra Tango was first delivered to France’s Brit Air in 1991.

Aside from a brief spell with India’s Kingfisher Red in 2011, EC-KKQ has only been in the employ of Swiftair until now, while EC-LST was used by Brit Air, Air Atlantique, and Poland’s OLT Express Regional.

Uep Fly ATR-72
Two 68-seat ATR-72s are being used. Photo: via PMI Planespotting

Aircraft are wet-leased

Both ATR-72s are wet-leased from Swiftair, meaning aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance are all provided by that operator. As a result, Uep! Fly is a virtual airline, which is typically a quicker, easier, and potentially less risky way of starting, although normally more expensive.

Ibiza to Palma
Uep! Fly’s first route on July 16th was Ibiza to Palma. Image: RadarBox.com.

What is Uep! Fly offering?

In the week beginning July 26th, the new entrant has two non-stop routes: Palma to Ibiza (87 miles) and Palma to Mahon (83 miles). It also offers up to four change-of-plane services a day between Ibiza and Mahon, typically with a two-hour or so connection in Palma.

  • Palma-Ibzia: 19-weekly outbound flights in this July week
  • Palma-Mahon: 12-weekly
uep! initial routes
This is the new entrant’s initial network. The ATR-72 is an excellent and cost-effective aircraft for short sectors, and it makes much more sense than the faster and more expensive Dash-8-400. Of course, the ATR-72 is less expensive to operate because it is slower. For future expansion, circles show a 400-mile radius of each of its three airports: red = Palma; white = Ibzia; and green = Mahon. Image: GCMap

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Significant head-to-head competition

Both routes have significant head-to-head competition with Iberia Regional (using Air Nostrum aircraft) and Air Europa. Between Palma and Ibiza, Iberia Regional has 38-weekly services (mainly using the CRJ-1000), while Air Europa has 28 weekly (ATR-72).

On Palma-Mahon, Iberia Regional has 32 weekly flights (CRJ-1000), while it is 14-weekly for Air Europa (ATR-72). We previously looked at the rise and fall of the CRJ-1000.

Palma to Ibiza and Mahon
This figure looks at the week beginning July 26th. Despite COVID, there are still 24,000 round-trip seats available on these two routes, equivalent to over 3,400 each day. However, it now has three operators versus the usual two, so when things begin to return to normal, capacity will rise significantly unless one or more retreat. Image: Simple Flying using data from OAG.

To the future

Uep! Fly’s plan consists of three stages. The first is its intra-island operation, the backbone of its existence. It anticipates growing in terms of frequencies and therefore competitiveness. With over 30,000 indirect passengers in 2019, it is likely that non-stop Ibiza-Mahon will materialize at some point too.

Secondly, it hopes to link the Balearic Islands with underserved and unserved destinations on the Spanish mainland, presumably mainly or only in the peak summer.

Thirdly, when COVID subsides, it says it will likely launch international markets with flights to secondary and underserved destinations. However, this is highly uncertain at the moment and it would need another aircraft type.

What are your thoughts about Uep! Fly? Let us know in the comments.