Dubai: Another airline is entering the fray in the hugely popular Dubai-Maldives route, with the Indian Ocean destination emerging as one of the top choices for UAE residents opting for a break at any time of the year.
Launching in September, the airline, Beond, features a UAE-based investor, which is the investment firm Arabesque, as well as the Maldivian hospitality company SIMDI Group.
Upon approval from the Maldivian air authorities, Beond will be a designated carrier of the Maldives. “We are the world’s first all-leisure airline,” said Tero Taskila, CEO and Chairman of Beond. (He was also a former Lufthansa executive.)
“We launched the airline after realising that the leisure travel segment is among the fastest growing and will continue to do so for the next ten years.”
The global luxury travel market is expected to reach $1.57 trillion by 2028, rising at a 6.3 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate), according to recent forecasts.
The airline’s custom-built Airbus A321LRs narrow-body jet would feature a unique configuration, offering 68 lie-flat seats instead of the standard 220 in a 2-2 format.
The one-way base fare from Dubai would start at $1,500.
The airline plans on expanding to 52 non-stop destinations in 26 countries, and taking on 1.4 million passengers in five years. Some initial destinations include Dubai, Hong Kong, Milan, Munich, Paris, Riyadh, Singapore, Taipei, Vienna, and Zurich.
The airline will begin accepting pre-bookings during the summer.
The first hub would be Velana International Airport in Male. “We also plan on basing ourselves in five other hubs outside Dubai and Male,” the CEO said.
We are focused on operating in markets that are year-round holiday destinations and seasonal hubs. For example, the Finnish Lapland is very popular around winter-time. These are the kind of seasonal hubs we want to operate to.
Fleet, airline configuration
Taskila said the airline chose to lease its initial fleet from the American aircraft leasing and management company Bbam. “If you are in the market to buy a new aircraft now, the earliest delivery slots are in 2026 due to supply chain constraints,” he added. “Instead, we will be leasing our initial aircraft fleet from Bbam, one of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies. We plan on leasing an additional four aircraft from another leasing firm, the details of which we will announce soon.”
The airline CEO said Beond is well-placed to compete with legacy airlines in the premium segment as the A321LR aircraft offers an ultra-light customised configuration with an expanded range.
The airline has also set its sight on expanding its fleet with an Airbus A321XLR, expected to enter service in 2024.
“We are well placed to compete with-wide bodies in the long-haul segment as the aircraft can fly up to 12 hours due to its ultra-lightweight configuration, reducing operational costs by 8 per cent,” said Taskila. “This enables us to fly from Maldives to Australia or other European destinations, for example,”
Apart from the all lie-flat seats, passengers can indulge in a Michelin-star menu in-flight. The airline plans to provide concierge and chauffeur services out of private jet terminals, including stay packages at luxury resorts.
Home check-in services will also be offered. There will be no check-in terminals, eliminating the need for long queues.
“The luggage will be collected from the passenger by a chauffeur and transferred directly to the hotel or resort room,” said Taskila.