CEO Interview: EVIA AERO, Europe’s First Sustainable Airline in the Making

CEO Interview: EVIA AERO, Europe’s First Sustainable Airline in the Making

DALLAS — Amidst the dire need to shift to more sustainable options, which remains a rather hard task in the airline industry, especially on the medium to long haul, there’s a green light on the regional front. We might just be staring at all-electric aircraft making commuter flights by the end of this decade.

One of the very first to be part of the ‘green aero revolution concerning clean flying is German start-up EVIA AERO, based in Bremen. The environmentally friendly start-up is aiming high; with aircraft orders in place and a growing network of airport partnerships, the journey is sure to be one to look forward to as they prepare to set up the entire ecosystem to support sustainable flight operations.

Airways correspondent Siddharth Ganesh meets with Florian Kruse, CEO of EVIA AERO, to gain a deeper insight into this first-of-a-kind journey to build an actual ‘sustainable airline’, one that’s green and fossil fuel-free from day one.

Florian Kruse at Eviation, Seattle | Photo: EVIA AERO

The Going Green Talk with Florian Kruse

SG: Florian, when and where did this idea of starting not just a sustainable air service but the entire ecosystem occur to you?

FK: It started two and a half years ago in my little office with a small team sitting in Bremen airport, where I was CCO. It was clear to us in the first year of the pandemic that corporate travel was hard hit, and its impact will be more prevalent at regional and smaller airports.

Then, of course, we saw the rising trend of online meetings, and it’s become a stable mode of communication, at least for the initial set of interactions. We cannot turn the clock back to where it was and have that amount of corporate travel today. Many regional carriers in Europe have come but have also left or, let’s say, gone bankrupt. We have, however, found a niche—a small niche—that we want to capitalize on.

We then investigated for the right aircraft—an electric aircraft. Likewise, we looked at Heart’s ES-19 back then, but suddenly, they announced they upgraded it to an ES-30 that wouldn’t be 100% electric but rather a hybrid. Then we landed at Alice.

Our teams (EVIA AERO and Eviation) worked very closely as we’re both new start-ups, and we are proud to be one of the European launch customers of Alice. We flew to Seattle, and our engineers and their engineers engaged in an eye-level deep discussion about infrastructure, ground power, and Alice’s maintenance.

Florian Kruse

Amidst your progression with Alice, you also ventured with Cranfield for the Britten Norman Islander—why?
Cranfield came around the corner with the Britten Norman Islander, along with a conversion kit that would arrive well before the electric aircraft. Second, It’s easier to gain certification for this as it’s not an entirely new design; just the hydrogen gas tanks, fuel cells, electric motor, and heat exchanger need a close look at.”

And now we have a commitment for both technologies – the Islander and the Alice. With the whole ec,osystem we plan to set up, we want to be able to delivur own electricity for the Alice aircraft and generate our own hydrogen for the islander aircraft.

Florian Kruse

Eviation is a start-up, and so are you. What’s the synergy like?

This relationship between a new manufacturer and a new operator is a new way of collaboration, because both sides learn from each other, and it’s not just between us, it goes beyond the two involved parties. For example, we discussed with Heart Aerospace regarding charging infrastructure.

Britten Norman Islander | Photo: EVIA AERO

You recently signed with Helsinki East Aerodrome. How many such airports across Europe would you call ‘partner airports’?

We have LOIs for 10 airports. We continue to look forward to working with several other airports across Europe. We just signed at Helsinki East. Germany is also there. We are looking at Romanian, Austrian, Belgian, Spanish, and French airports too. We will have to see how the negotiations go.

Regional airports exist for economic growth reasons. A lot of flag carriers cut down regional routes post-pandemic, and such airports lost connectivity which is very hard to bring back. The smaller airports need revenue. But there’s more potential to them.

Florian Kruse

Will you have exclusivity with certain airports that you call ‘partner airports”?

No. it’s important that we are open to all. We will rent/lease land at airports for our PV plants. We’re not here to play Monopoly. The infrastructure we’re building is open for everyone to use. From flight schools, operators, and competitors. They all simply need charging stations, and we can provide that.

Just like we’re working with the manufacturer, we wish to work the same way with an airport. We’re both new to this; it’s like a joint venture. If regional airports lose money and go bankrupt, we’ll have problems, so we have to look after each other, and it’s a win-win at the end.

Florian Kruse
EVIA AERO aims to set up a 50-megawatt PV plant at Helsinki-East Aerodrome. Photo: EVIA AERO

How expensive would your tickets be? 

We think we will pay 15% more than a flag carrier business ticket for short-range flying. For example, from Bremen to Copenhagen, our one-way ticket would cost around 380 euros.

Infrastructure must surely be your top challenge today. Comment?

Yes, absolutely, to make sure we have the right infrastructure on the ground at our airports of operation. It’s different in different European countries; each has its own challenges and permissions required.

A lot of administration, which can be slow. In that sense, the challenge is actually less technology-based, we have the suppliers, and we can tender for each part of our value chain. The administrative work is the harder part, as it involves different airports in various European countries, and what we’re doing is also new.

And you want to set up the whole ecosystem to support your operations?

From our point of view, you must build the whole thing. We need to start with the concept of greenfield. Thus, we can keep costs under control.

Featured image: Featured Image: EVIA AERO

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