It may seem like a strange time to launch an airline. A global pandemic has devastated air travel yet 2021 has seen many new start-up carriers and 2022 looks set to continue that trend.
The global grounding of aircraft has actually provided some favorable conditions for anyone wishing to set up a new airline – namely availability of aircraft and crew.
Many carriers, both old and new, have taken advantage of the situation to pick up aircraft from lessors at cheap rates. The end of 2021 has also seen a pick-up in new aircraft orders, with airlines seeking to book delivery slots in a few years’ time for more efficient aircraft for their operations once we are through the pandemic.
While pilot hiring in the United States has taken off thanks to surging domestic travel demand, there are still many unemployed qualified pilots looking for work in other parts of the world.
Aviation consultancy IBA crunched the numbers and revealed in June 2021 that more than 130 start-up airlines plan to launch operations by the end of 2022.
New airlines which have successfully launched in 2021 include Avelo, Breeze, Flyr and PLAY, and AeroTime will continue to follow their fortunes in 2022 and beyond.
So how is it looking for the class of 2022? AeroTime asked Stuart Hatcher, chief revenue officer at IBA and ISTAT certified senior appraiser, for his thoughts on the environment for start-up airlines as we approach a new year.
“This modest boom in start-ups has largely been driven by cheap aircraft and empty routes,” Hatcher says, noting that almost 40% of the new start-up carriers identified by IBA were due to be based in Europe.
“IBA anticipates a favorable environment to continue for start-ups in 2022, though if global utilization continues to pick up following the easing of restrictions, changes in availability of cheap aircraft may change the prospect for select business models.“
So it’s not all good news. New airlines will need to pay close attention to costs and ensure they have the flexibility to navigate ever-changing travel restrictions. The emergence of the Omicron variant has also proved that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over.
AeroTime takes a look at some of the many airlines due to start operations in 2022:
This UK-based carrier intends to operate on secondary routes between Britain and India. Longer term, it also plans to serve other markets, noting that its experience shows there is demand for regular flights serving Indian diasporas in both Europe and North America.
The carrier has said it plans to operate a fleet of A330-200s and is currently seeking a captain to perform a proving flight as part of the process to obtain its air operator’s certificate (AOC). A recruitment advert shows it is also accepting early applications from flight crew for 2022.
The Hans Airways business model is similar to that of start-up Flypop, which also wants to connect Britain and India. Due to the pandemic, Flypop has commenced cargo-only operations for now, with plans to start passenger services once the pandemic has eased.
More of a relaunch than a start-up, Flybe is a familiar name in UK aviation. The British regional carrier ceased operations in March 2020 after plans to rebrand as Virgin Connect were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new owners acquired the assets out of administration, rebranded back to Flybe and now plan to begin operations from a new Birmingham base in early 2022 with a fleet of De Havilland DHC-8-400 turboprop aircraft.
The airline says it intends to have a fleet of 32 turboprop aircraft. The first Dash 8-400, on lease from Nordic Aviation Capital, arrived on November 25, 2021.
Norse Atlantic Airways
This new Norwegian carrier is capitalizing on the transatlantic low-cost gap left by Norwegian Air Shuttle, which has shrunk down to focus only on short-haul. It’s a gap others are hoping to exploit too, with new competition on the US-Europe link from Iceland’s PLAY, US carrier JetBlue (JBLU), plus the usual flag carriers.
Norse Atlantic plans to start operations in Spring 2022, connecting Oslo to US cities. The start-up intends to operate a fleet of 12 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and three Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. It received its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) on December 29, 2021.
No surprises for guessing where this ‘bonza’ airline intends to operate. The new Australian airline says it plans to launch operations in early 2022, flying Aussies on domestic routes using the Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Bonza has no plans to launch international routes, explaining on its website: “Bonza exists to allow Aussies to see more of their own backyard.” However, destinations have not yet been announced. The airline says it is in talks with “lots of airports” across Australia.
Indian start-up Akasa has big plans, having placed its first order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at the Dubai Airshow in November 2021.
The ultra-low-cost carrier, backed by Indian billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, plans to start operations in mid-2022. It will be launching at an interesting time for the Indian market, with Air India set for a revamp after being taken over by conglomerate Tata Group.
Greater Bay Airlines
Hong Kong-based Greater Bay Airlines had hoped to launch in summer 2021 but has suffered delays in getting its air operator’s certificate and the necessary license approvals. The airline last provided an update on October 8, 2021, when it said it hoped to start flying “soon”.
The carrier plans to operate flights from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, North Asia and Southeast Asian destinations. It has leased three Boeing 737-800 aircraft so far, but plans to have seven aircraft by the end of 2022. Longer term it intends to expand its fleet to more than 30 aircraft by 2026, subject to market demand and the recovery from the pandemic.
This US carrier is currently hiring flight and cabin crew, engineers, supervisors and managers as it prepares to launch flights with its A320 fleet from Southern California. Its social media pages promise “safety, comfort and convenience”.
Airbahn took delivery of its first aircraft in November, a 12-year-old Airbus A320 with registration N786PB. According to US media reports, the airline’s first route will be on March 1, 2022 from Ontario, California (ONT) to Oakland, California (OAK).
On the west coast of the US, Airbahn will be competing with new carrier Avelo Air, which launched operations in April 2021 flying the Boeing 737-800 and has since expanded to east coast destinations.
Northern Pacific Airways
This new long-haul airline plans to link destinations in the United States with Japan and South Korea through connecting flights via its base at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC).
For this, it plans to deploy a fleet of Boeing 757-200 narrow-body aircraft. It announced the purchase of its first six aircraft on September 22, 2021, saying it had selected the aircraft because it was less costly to operate than wide-body counterparts.
Even before it launched, this low-cost airline from the Dominican Republic had already opted for a rebranding. Initially branded Flycana, it has renamed itself AraJet.
The airline seems to have spied a gap in its region for a low-cost carrier. It notes on its LinkedIn page that while the Dominican Republic is the ninth largest economy in Latin America and the Caribbean, the country does not have a national low-cost airline.
AraJet received approval from the Dominican Republic civil aviation authority (JAC) in November for 30 routes, including to the United States, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Mexico, Panama, Aruba, French Republic, Guatemala, Republic of Peru, Haiti, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The JAC said AraJet plans to start operations in January 2022, with a fleet of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Mystery surrounds this start-up airline from South Africa. On its Facebook page, Webclift describes itself as on a “mission to commence commercial operations from South Africa to International destinations”. A picture of Miami on the page indicates this is a potential destination for the new carrier.
Media reports in January 2021 indicated that the carrier hoped to take on a pair of Boeing 777-300ERs and commence operations in 2022. Since then, however, there has been no news. The airline’s website is also under construction. Perhaps this is one that won’t get off the ground at all.
Which airlines will succeed?
That’s just a selection of the carriers around the world hoping to start operations in 2022. It’s certainly not an easy time to launch, given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Which new airlines are you looking to fly with in 2022? Let us know in the comments!