DALLAS — A new luxury start-up airline is on its way—BEOND. With 68 premium seats to offer on an Airbus A321neo, for those looking to head for some sun and sea, your shuttle is here.
The yet-to-be airline will be based in the Maldives’ Male International Airport (MLE) and will initially operate flights to nearby Asian destinations before expanding further.
In a conversation I held with Tero Taskila, CEO of BEOND, he explained how this niche airline came to be, its vision, fleet strategy, network, and underlying concept.
TT: The initial idea is that we saw a market for luxury leisure airlines in the aviation world; it is the fastest-growing travel segment at the moment, accelerated by the coronavirus.
Once we set up the idea, we looked at the feasibility of how we could do it in the best way. We looked at different aircraft types and landed on the A321XLR as the ideal aircraft for us in terms of range and capacity.
It has an adequate number of seats to actually make money because if you have a 35-seat plane over a long distance, it’s very difficult to make money.
SG: Several reports mention that you will fly the A321LR. You mentioned the A321XLR. Comment?
The ultimate plan for the long term is the A321XLR. Let us practice the concept over shorter distances first.
We discussed this with Airbus and industry members, and the A321XLR can do 11 to 12 hours of flying, which is almost an ultra-long haul. But then with the A321LR, we are able to reach around 9 hours, which eliminates some of the destinations that we wanted to do in the beginning, but it gives a 6–9-h sector leg, so we learn about long haul operations, improve them, and then take the ultra-long-haul flights.
The Big Global Dream Ahead for BEOND
We always had the plan to be a global airline for all the luxury destinations around the world. We then approached many luxury islands; the Maldives was the best fit for us in terms of government support, too. I don’t talk about finances because that’s not what they are giving us, but support in other ways.
The Maldives also allowed us to get national carrier status, which is very important to us. We are the only carrier that can fly to 80 destinations outside of Male. So, we are in a monopolistic situation in the Maldives going forward. There’s Maldivian Airlines with the same opportunity, but they have a couple of aircraft and not much growth.
We have an open runway.
The Idea: When did you come up with it? Was it during the pandemic?
It was done before. We have been thinking about this for a long time. All the founders have been working at different airlines around the world. I’ve been a consultant at several airlines, restructuring and starting them, and the other founders have done the same. We’ve seen the global market, and we’re trying to take the best out of it and come up with our own airline.
Initially, you would base the aircraft in the Maldives, and the planes would also bear Maldivian registration.
That’s correct. It is our first hub, but we are in discussion with other destinations as well, and we will expand.
There are numerous blogs that speculate on whether we will be successful or if we will fail, like every other full-service carrier in the world. No, we are not.
The first set of destinations would be? I’d guess for Male – Dubai. And, when would BEOND launch be?
Dubai- Male, It’s a highly competitive link. We will operate it, but it’s not our focus. We are using it more or less for logistical reasons for aircraft rotation, maintenance, and crew reasons; it’s an essential base for us in the future.
For our summer schedule, we will have eight destinations, which are in Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East.
We are launching in the summer of 2023 and looking at the tour operator’s demand to pick the month.
Would you start with a single A321 or wait for a couple?
We will start operations when we have two.
We are in negotiation with lessors for seven aircraft for next year and hope to sign the deal by year’s end. We have already signed for the first one.
The BEOND website states home check-in, so would that mean the bags go straight from home to the aircraft hold?
It is not from the house to the aircraft, but obviously, we have great support in Male for the facilitation of this.
The customer will say goodbye to their bags at home, the driver will load them in the trunk of the car, and the next time they welcome their bag will be at the destination hotel or resort in the Maldives.
So, on arrival, they do not see their bags until they get to their room?
Obviously, they will need to declare that that’s their bag and visually see that the bag has actually arrived, and the hotel or resort will look after it.
Would airport transfers at departure and destination be offered if you hold a BEOND ticket?
Yeah, that’s the idea, but we are looking at a fare family concept like many airlines implement to offer affordable fares that allow customers to save money if they don’t really need transportation to the airport. We will have a streamlined version as well, where you can save money and enjoy the flight experience.
A premium airline promises a premium experience even before boarding. As for the Maldives, will you have your very own BEOND Lounge?
We have an aspiration for our own lounge, but the airport is going through an expansion – the terminal is a little delayed, but once that’s done, we’d like to have one in the terminal at Male.
Getting around the Maldives from Male International, would you have a codeshare agreement with local airlines like Trans Maldivian?
There are no codeshares with local airlines. Most customers book flights and hotels separately. If you book a resort in the Maldives outside Male, the hotel usually includes transportation by seaplane or speedboat.
Featured image: BEOND