Six months ago I wrote about BeOnd which plans to launch as an all-business class airline with a hub in the Maldives.
This seemed a stretch to me. But there are people with real airline experience involved in the project. Their CEO is a former Gulf Air and airBaltic executive. And they’ve just announced they’ve received funding and have plans to launch just a few months from now.
- Beond calls themselves the world’s first premium leisure airline, although that doesn’t seem right. What about La Compagnie? And Eos Airlines, founded in 2004, operated from New York JFK to London Stansted with Boeing 757s with 48 business class seats. Maybe the argument here is that they’re focused on an almost entirely leisure destination rather than that they’re focused predominantly on leisure traffic.
- The $17 million they’ve raised isn’t a lot for an airline, which can lose a lot of money quickly, but with only one plane in its possession so far that could be enough to get off the ground.
- I don’t see how they grow an all-business class leisure airline with 68 premium seats on board A321neos serving 60 – 80 destinations as they’ve talked about in the past. But they do have a plane, and plans for more, plus now a little bit of money.
While I don’t know that they’ll be in the air in the fall as they suggest, the airline seems like more than a paper napkin business plan at this point. I still don’t see how it’s possible to grow a hub in Male, but the airport is finally using a second runway that was built five years ago, and a new southwest apron. Previously it wasn’t possible to even have to planes on a runway at once. The wait time between flights landing has been reduced from 15 minutes to 3 minutes. I am not sure they have the gates for it yet.
Ultimately my skepticism is around growth projections, more so whether they can get into the air. And my skepticism is around the business model.
- They offer a premium product, and if there’s a destination for it the Maldives seems like a fit. But they won’t be able to offer a robust schedule with a single or even two aircraft.
- Are they going to attract so many more customers who will not fly Qatar Airways or Emirates because of the connection, albeit with less frequent and therefore also less convenient service and with an inferior inflight product to Qatar?
- The Maldives is also a highly seasonal destination. This could work November through March but where are they going to send the planes April through October as rainy season keeps away tourists?
They say that they currently have an Airbus A319 with 44 seats. They expect to add an A321ceo with 68 seats, and then take an A321LR next year. Yet they sent me a LOPA showing 76 seats?
Initial destinations are targeting Dubai and Delhi initially and eventually Perth. Dubai – and going up against Emirates, which already offers non-stop service – seems like an odd play. They’ll have less frequency. It seems like they need a destination where they can offer greater convenience, not less convenience.
To make BeOnd work, they’re going to need a second hub. They’re planning this, though they haven’t talked about what it will be. It needs to be a counter-seasonal location that peaks over the Northern summer. Maybe southern Europe?
Ultimately BeOnd doesn’t yet have its air operator’s certificate from the Maldivian government. They aren’t selling tickets. They’d love to launch in fall, rather than miss this year’s season and have to wait a year. Will they make it?