The challenges that faced the world during 2020 were unprecedented in modern times. Virtually every industry suffered because of them, with companies going bust and thousands of jobs lost. Those losses have been tragic and hard to deal with no matter which industry you work in, but the aviation industry has suffered more than most. The costs of staying involved in the industry are staggeringly high, with profit margins far lower than most people imagine. A single canceled or postponed flight can damage a company’s bottom line. A whole year of them is catastrophic. We shouldn’t only be surprised that most airlines have thus far survived the storm; we should also be grateful. There have been times during the past twelve months that even the biggest names appeared to be on shaky ground financially, and it’s a wonder that most of them are still here.
Staying alive in the aviation industry at the moment is one thing, but opening a new airline would be quite another. To most of our readers, we suspect the idea is incomprehensible. The global pandemic situation is little better at the end of January 2021 than it was at the end of February 2020. Flights are still being canceled at short notice. Planes are still being grounded. Even when they’re not, there’s a reluctance from passengers actually to board planes and fly anywhere because of safety concerns. Given the astronomical costs of setting up a new airline, most people probably think that only a fool would even try doing so in the current conditions – and yet the United Kingdom is getting not just one new long-haul budget airline this year, but two.
Based on that sentence and nothing more, it would be understandable if you questioned the sanity of whoever is behind these new airlines. It’s never been harder to make money out of owning an airline, and there have never been worse prospects of doing so. That doesn’t make these moves insane, though. It makes them a gamble. Think about the games you might play at an online slots website. In fact, think specifically about the Bonanza online slots UK game because that’s as well-known as it is complicated. There are hundreds of potentially even thousands of variables that could apply to any spin on that online slots game. You don’t need to win every single time to make playing it worthwhile. You only have to have one good win to wipe away the costs of your bad bets and make a profit on top. That’s what the owners of these new airlines are betting. They’re playing for higher stakes than any online slots player in history has ever played for, but they stand to win big if the gamble pays off.
Nobody with any sense would go into an operation of this magnitude blind, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the people behind these new initiatives have plenty of knowledge and experience of the aviation industry. You might even know the name of the first of the two new companies, which will be operating flights from the English city of Manchester to New York, Orlando, and Boston. It’s a new subsidiary of the Irish airline Air Lingus. In a twist of irony, Air Lingus is a sister company of British Airways, which operated flights between Manchester and New York before the route was abandoned in 2010. Rather than being handled by the existing Irish company, the new transatlantic route will be operated by Aer Lingus UK, which appears to have been opened specifically for the role. When it’s legally permissible to operate commercial flights between the listed destinations, the new airline will find itself in direct competition with Virgin Atlantic to attract passengers who want to go to either Orlando or New York. This fills a gap in the UK market that’s been empty since Thomas Cook went bankrupt and collapsed in September 2019.
At the time of announcing the new company’s formation and its planned routes, Aer Lingus hoped it would welcome its first passengers in May 2021. Despite prolonged uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic regarding travel restrictions and potential end dates for them, this is still the plan. While it’s been seen as a positive move for passengers, the announcement was viewed with skepticism and surprise by employees of British Airways. BA has furloughed or terminated many of its staff because of the ongoing impact of the pandemic, which has led some of those staff to question how the airline’s sister company can afford to open a new airline when BA is making cutbacks. It’s a reasonable question, but not one they’re likely to get an answer to at any point in the near future.
The other new airline might raise a few eyebrows. It’s called Flypop, and it’s owned by a former Lehman Brothers trader who appears to have partially financed his new endeavor by securing a grant from a UK Government fund that was intended to assist businesses impacted by the pandemic. Navdip Singh Judge has received £1m from UK taxpayers to help him set up his company despite the fact that several existing airlines have been told a firm “no” when applying for further financial assistance. The entrepreneur’s aim for Flypop is to become the “Ryanair of long-haul flights” and operate between the UK and India. There’s a potential gap in the market there, but it should be noted that, as of the time of writing, at least, Flypop doesn’t own any planes and hasn’t yet been granted an operating license. Judge says that his company is at an advanced stage in talks with companies to acquire planes and doesn’t anticipate any issues with its operating license application. He’s yet to commit to a date for commencing services.
From a distance, it looks more likely that the first of these new airlines will succeed than the second. Every airline has to start somewhere, though, and Mr. Judge might surprise everybody with Flypop if his route between India and the UK turns out to be popular enough. Just the fact that anyone at all is opening new airlines in early 2021 is remarkable, and so we should wish them both every success with their endeavors. Hopefully, they’ll go on to create plenty of jobs within the sector.