LONDON ­– In a candid interview with Airways, the CEO of Moov Airways has spoken on the initial expansion plans for this start-up, its ambitions to create a Pan European airline, and the reasons why he believes that the long-haul, low-cost model is the base for an ‘airline of the future.’

Alvaro Nogueira de Oliveira, Moov Airways CEO. Photo: Moov Airways

Nogueira de Oliveira is an industry veteran with over 35 years of experience in the air travel industry. His professional career began in the now-defunct VARIG (RG), Brazil’s flag carrier at the time, where he was the Manager of the Boeing 737 fleet,  and continued in GOL (G3) and Azul (AD), where he assumed the role of Director of Flight Operations. Now, he readies to reach new heights with Moov as the CEO of the airline.

“After I moved to Switzerland in 2015, I began gathering with some friends and started discussing. What is next? What is coming in the industry? and we believe that the decentralized long-haul, low-cost model is the answer.”

Interview


Airways (AW): What is the story behind the name?

Alvaro Nogueira de Oliveira (ANO): The name selection was a difficult process, but we choose Moov because the name is short, catchy, strong, easy to identify, and there is a meaning. So, that’s what we want to provide, movement.

Our vision is to make ‘far away’ a place that does not exist. We want to deliver aviation for everybody, so let’s Moov!

AW: What will Moov do differently to succeed where other long-haul, low-cost airlines failed to survive?

ANO: First of all, it’s important to understand that long-haul flights to low-cost markets or low-cost concepts will not be the same we have seen in the short-haul, low-cost markets. 

In the short-haul, we all know the story after the airline deregulation in 1979 when Southwest boomed with its low-cost model, and they are the creators of something that I bet they had no idea at that time. 

The [Southwest] model was copied and pasted everywhere, with just minor adjustments. The airline became the benchmark for the short-haul, low-cost.  

In the long haul, according to our perception, it is going to be different. There will be four or five other benchmarks, and we at Moov believe that we will be one of them.

Our model is decentralized, point-to-point, flying from secondary catchment areas in Europe to primary or secondary markets overseas while providing a seamless, personalized passenger experience.

We will use digital economy resources to leverage the company, and we will use long-haul narrowbodies for some markets that we have identified. 

AW: Where will Moov be initially based? 

ANO: We have come to the idea of Lugano for our jumpstart, using our decentralized model. Lugano is a region that can afford non-stop flights to primary or secondary cities, and that’s our aim.

In the post-pandemic scenario, the success will rely on offering convenience to our passengers by shortening trip times.

Suppose anyone from the region of Lugano wishes to take a flight. In that case, they will have to travel by train, bus or car to any of the nearby airports in Italy [Bergamo, Linate or Malpensa], or Zurich in Switzerland, with the subsequent extra cost in terms of time and money. 

If Moov can provide flights out of Lugano, we will save those travellers up to two hours of travel.

On the long-haul, it is pretty much the same. We aim to serve secondary markets non-stop, bypassing the hubs from our potential competitors, and this means that we will be able to shorten the trip time to our passengers between three to four hours.

AW: Talking about Lugano. The airport has not had any commercial service since 2019. What are your plans there?

ANO: Given the constraints in the apron space and the runway, we will only limit Lugano to regional operations. It will be a niche, low-cost operation, offering affordable fares.

However, we need to mitigate some risks in Lugano that caused the failure of previous airlines serving the airport. The Instrument flying in and out of the airport must be reviewed. We should have PBN [Performance Based Navigation] and thus improve the navigational precision of the aircraft entering and leaving the valley. The update would also allow aircraft to reach minima equivalent to ILS Category I.

Today, Lugano has an IGS [Instrumental Guidance System] approach with a steep angle of descent and a high minima, which prompt flights to divert when meteorological conditions are not optimal for visual approaches. 

Diversions impact the costs and efficiency of operations directly. That is why Lugano Airport has a bad reputation nowadays.

The technological resources to mitigate these operational risks exist, and Lugano Airport needs this to regain its activity, gaining frequencies to stimulate demand. 

AW: What is the current status of this upgrade to the navigational aids in Lugano? 

ANO: The airport is currently in a transition from a public management to private hands. Once completed, these changes should take place. 

AW: Will be Moov involved in the private management of Lugano Airport?

ANO: We initially thought to run it [the airport] alone, but airport management is not our core business. We are looking forward to serving flights in and out of Lugano, but the conditions mentioned before should be met to achieve operational regularity. Otherwise, it will not be feasible.

AW: So, the initial plans of Moov are to start a low-cost operation in a niche market, which would be the aircraft you are considering for the initial operations?

ANO: We are considering a regional aircraft due to the size of our market, the ramp space, and the runway length in Lugano. The Dash 8 is a candidate, but we are also thinking about Embraer EJets.

AW: How about electrical aircraft? Has Moov considered the type for its short-haul operations?

ANO: We are an environmentally-minded company, and we will do our best to protect the environment by recycling and minimizing the use of plastics. However, we believe that electricity to power the aircraft is still in its early beginnings. Still, it is driven by the industry’s goals to become zero carbon in the following decades. 

We are aiming to have the most efficient aircraft with lower emissions. On top of that, we aim to have operational procedures to minimize the environmental footprint. That’s what can we offer now within our reach.

In the long term, we will not aim for electric airplanes but hydrogen instead. In my personal opinion, electric aircraft will be successful as general aviation aircraft.

For commercial airplanes, unless they develop fast and safe battery charging methods, lighter and long-lasting batteries, the use of these aircraft for mass passenger transportation will be unfeasible.  

AW: What is in the game for your long-haul operations?

ANO: We are considering the Airbus A321XLR, the extra long-range variant of the A321neo. The versatility of the aircraft is such that it allows operating long, thin routes to secondary markets that are economically unfeasible if they are served with widebodies. We have worked closely with Airbus to find the optimal configuration for our operations.

AW: In the long-haul, low-cost market, the cargo business is often considered as the ugly duckling, unpromising at first but with the potential to become an additional revenue source in the medium-to-long term. Is also Moov considering exploiting the cargo business too?

ANO: Absolutely. The cargo business can be very attractive, but expertise is needed. We at Moov consider the cargo as ancillary revenue and not as a core business.

AW: You have commented before that Moov aims to become a Pan-European airline. Will this imply opening divisions in those countries where you will be based?

ANO: Initially, we haven’t planned any other divisions to keep things simple as part of our low-cost conception.

AW: So, it will be in a similar fashion as Volotea operates today? A low-cost European airline serving secondary markets?

ANO: Yes, we aim to do that, not precisely as Volotea, which follows the Southwest benchmark. We are going to develop more like a long-haul, low-cost one. For example, in the short-haul, low-cost model, you fill the airplane with many seats as you can, and you have a similar service standard throughout the cabin. 

In the case of the long-haul, we cannot disregard business travellers or those who wish to travel with more comfort. Those are segments that cannot be ignored, and we will use this conception to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

AW: What cabin products will you offer in Moov?

ANO: We will have an economy class, and we will have a product for the business segment. We are devising our products using leading-edge technology to administrate our logistics. The business class segment is important and cannot be disregarded.

AW: One of the major concerns in the industry is the effect of the crisis on business travelling, as new technological resources such as video conferencing are becoming more reliable and secure. How will Moov appeal to this market?

ANO: Business travellers will come back at a slower pace when compared to tourism and VFR [Visiting Friends and Relatives] travel. We believe that the business segment will regain strength.

For now, we plan to offer fewer premium seats when compared to other legacy airlines. This premium seating will offer more space, but it will not be a business class per se.

AW:  We are experiencing a second major shakeup in the industry in the last 20 years, and particularly in Europe, the COVID-19 crisis has reshaped aviation like no other before. Why launching an airline right now?

ANO: We began with this project in 2018, way before the pandemic. Because of the crisis and the pandemic, we are always aware of opportunities that may come.

The current scenario has never been imagined before, and no one could imagine airlines grounding their aircraft for so long.

Some breakup points have changed the industry, such as the post-deregulation era and September 11, 2001, in the United States. A new chapter will start after the crisis is overcome, and for a new entrant, there will be opportunities.

Aircraft are available at a relatively low cost; there is plenty of experienced staff available and airport slots and assets. I believe that Moov, as a debt-free company, will thrive in the new market scenario.

AW: 9/11 has changed the way we travel security-wise. The same can be said about the current crisis from a health point of view. How do you envision these new changes?

ANO: From my personal experience as a Pilot, I had the experience of travelling with vaccine certificates, and the fumigation of the passenger cabin and cargo holds. Health issues have always been part of the industry, although never on a large scale we are witnessing now.

The industry is very resilient, and I am sure airlines and airports will enforce the regulations that governments will implement to assure health security for travellers. There will be lessons learned, and some changes will be permanent. 

In the business plan budget of Moov, we have implemented contingency provisions just like any other airline, and we will abide by the regulations that there will be in place by the time we start-up operations. 

AW: How has been the funding campaign of Moov affected by the current scenario?

ANO: The funding for an airline is very different from any other type of business funding. Moov started its funding plans in late 2018 with a very disruptive funding model using Security Token Offer.

We have three experts as part of our team who have helped us develop a robust and reliable democratic funding project that will take place in 2021. We cannot provide any further details due to the regulations from Swiss authorities, but we plan to complete the funding this year. We are currently in discussions with lessors and manufacturers, and we are plan to announce the deals during the STO offering.

The goals are to start operations as early as summer 2022, when the industry is back in full swing and ready to Moov.


Featured image: Airbus A321XLR. Photo: Airbus