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Friday December 1, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The airline that had hoped to fly to Sion in Switzerland has confirmed it will not run a service this winter. There is deep anger & red faces aplenty. UPDATED

The announcement has been made after last ditch efforts to secure immediate financing failed.

Customers who have already booked flights have been informed and offered their money back, though many remain out of pocket.

They are angry and upset.

Claire Jeannerat:  "It's such a shame...I have 3 small children crying over their ruined Christmas."

Carole Evernden-Berguerand: "So glad we didn't book with them - Sion being my hometown, it would have been tempting... what a bunch of amateurs 😡"

Becky Osborne: "Hi, could you give us an idea on timescales for refunds please? Need the funds to book alternative flights" 

Powdair claims that it aims to re-finance, acquire its own aircraft and then try to get off the ground next winter.

However snowsports industry observers that we have spoken to here at PlanetSKI are deeply sceptical of any such scenario playing out.

A so-called 'aviation investor' has apparently come forward and will be looking at the business over the next month before any final decisions are taken.

"We've had a significant investment offer from a professional and experienced aviation industry investor. Although we're not in a position to confirm the identity of our new potential partner at this stage, their involvement will secure the financial future of powdair," claimed the airline in a statement on Friday evening.

One of the main concerns for some about powdair is that no-one, if anyone, seems to be behind it.

Names of individuals or organisations are hard to come by.

See more later in this article.

"However, the due diligence required to finalise this investment will take at least 30 days and we have therefore made the difficult, but what we feel is correct decision, not to launch powdair this winter. Our new investor wishes to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to launch a strong, well-funded airline focused on long term success," the statement added.  

It had always looked a somewhat shaky proposition. 

Numerous flights from regional airports in the UK to the little-known airport of Sion in the Valais canton of Switzerland?  

Nearby are the mega resorts of Zermatt and Verbier and the well-known ones of Saas-Fee and Crans-Montana.  

Many others are within striking distance.  

So far, so good.  

The only trouble is Switzerland is already well-served by flights from the UK into Geneva and Zurich with dozens of daily flights at very competitive prices. 

Transfer times to resorts are relatively good with an excellent public transport service and decent car hire options.  

The number of British people heading to the Swiss Alps is already in decline and not a single one of the major UK tour operators we spoke to thought it would succeed or offered it support. 

Other airlines have tried and failed on the route.

The British-run airline, SnowJet, flew from Gatwick to Sion but ceased operations in May 2012 after three turbulent seasons.

And then there is the small matter of financing a start-up airline going into a country where the national carrier, SWISS, would probably not like such a company encroaching on its territory.  

Powdair ran a huge marketing campaign across the UK and Switzerland over the autumn with its 17 ski resort backers helping to finance and promote the venture. 

Many are now angry that their money has been spent and time wasted with no return.

On Monday this week the seemingly inevitable was announced as the airline cancelled its first flights and declared it needed a further £3m in financing to keep going. 

£1m had to be found by, Friday December 1st

It tried to get the money from its customers on a crowd-funding scheme - it didn't work and fell far short of the mark.

See here for our updated story this week on PlanetSKI as we followed developments.   
Powdair was set to "wet lease" its aircraft and support staff.

Such agreements involve one airline providing aircraft, crew, maintenance & insurance to another carrier.

Two planes were to come from the Swiss company, Swiss Adria (Darwin).

A further two planes were to be leased from Backbone Aviation, a Danish firm.

The planes, two Bombardier CRJ200s and two Saab 2000 turbo props, can each seat 50 passengers.

The Swiss company filled for insolvency on Monday this week and we understand this was the trigger for the start of the powdair venture to be pulled.

Darwin Airline halted all its flights after its licence was revoked by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) over the financial problems.

Powdair then appealed to crowd-funding but anyone who wanted to part with their cash in exchange for tickets on an airline that looks to be on the verge of collapse before the first flight had even taken off perhaps needed to question their judgement.

"I do not think it is right or acceptable to ask people to invest without sharing the financial details of this investment - for example, what are the fixed costs?  What are expected sales this season? What are the variable running costs? What debt does the business have?" said the Swiss ski area of Val d'Anniviers. 

"What a depressingly predictable failure this is, and all the wrong publicity for the UK snowsports industry, and more specifically the brands who lined up alongside this doomed venture without sufficient diligence of the proposition," said the managing director on Ski Solutions, Craig Burton, to PlanetSKI earlier this week.  

Passengers who have parted with cash have been promised their money back. 

Their money has not yet gone to powdair but rather into a company called World Ticket, which is independent, and the cash of the passengers therefore looks safe.

However, the ones we have heard from are angry and worried.

Angry that they now have to re-book flights with other airlines at higher prices and they remain concerned about whether they will see their money again.

Powdair has repeated assurances that their money is safe.

There is also deep anger and frustration from those tourist boards in Switzerland that offered marketing money or support to the project.  


So, who is behind the venture?  

The public face is the commercial director, Zoe Ombler.  

She has been at the forefront of all the marketing and promotional activity.

Zoe OmblerZoe Ombler

She was involved with a ferry company, Scoot, to the Isle of Wight that went bust in 2015.  

See here for the story of its demise on the BBC: 
At the time she said "Running a ferry company is an expensive business and it's fair to say we were under capitalised from day one and desperately looking for additional investment."  

Some may see an echo of what has now gone on with powdair.      

Also associated with that venture and the named director of powdair is Nick Davis. 

Nick DavisNick Davis c/o Malta Today

Here at PlanetSKI we have asked powdair several times who else was behind the venture providing the finance and was told this could not be revealed due to non-disclosure agreements, NDAs.

47-year old Mr Davis has run several businesses in the past and left a trail behind him.  
However sources close to Mr Davis have claimed to PlanetSKI that the pirate security firm was a succesful business for some time and events conspired to bring on its demise.

Mr Davis claimed he lost more money than anyone else in the failed venture thogh we cannot verify this.

Nick Davis and Zoe Ombler became engaged in July this year.

The chief financial officer is Sean Pettit.   

47 year old Pettit started his career with the UK's largest airline, British Airways, where he worked his way up to senior positions during the 16 years he spent at the company.  

He then spent over 7 years at Virgin Atlantic, before stepping into the role of General Manager of Finance at fledgling low cost airline, fastjet.

Sean PettitSean Pettit

Powdair is based in Dublin and was registered on 4th April 2017 with its listed office at Carmichael House Business Centre,
 60 Lower Baggot St, 

Its Principal Activity is listed as 'passenger air transport'.  

This week powdair was trying to placate its supporters.  

Despite claiming to the public that a main backer had withdrawn for 'personal' reasons the powdair team admit in private this was not the main reason - rather he was 'spooked' by the demise of Darwin Airline, which has filed for insolvency.  

We have seen an email sent by powdair to a Swiss resort tourist office on Tuesday: "powdair is still very much in business - all we did yesterday was alert our booked passengers and followers to the fact that our key investor had got spooked by recent events in the airline world."  

The people currently most angry, apart from the potential passengers, seem to be the Swiss tourist authorities and resorts who have backed the project.

Some observers have called them naive and gullible as the Swiss have lost money and reputation.  

All in all it seems a sorry state of affairs for all parties involved.

Here at PlanetSKI we will be following events and will keep you posted on developments. 

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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