Dubai: Beond, the luxury airline startup based in Maldives, unveiled its inaugural aircraft - an Airbus A319 - at the Dubai World Central (DWC) airport in Dubai on Wednesday. The airline’s CEO and Chairman of the Board, Tero Taskila, and the airline’s senior leadership revealed the aircraft’s distinctive livery. They also provided an exclusive preview of the plane’s interior to Gulf News.
The ‘all business-class’ aircraft offers 44 lay-flat seats and boasts an elegant livery in graphite grey with gold accents. The airline has already started accepting bookings for its first set of flights.
Beond’s inaugural flights to Maldives are scheduled for November 2023, with the Riyadh inaugural departing November 9, the Munich inaugural departing November 15, and the Zurich inaugural departing November 17.
In addition, the airline announced new routes to Milan, beginning in late March 2024, said Taskila. Tickets will be priced at 1,500 euros (Dh5,852) per passenger, depending on the origin.
“We began working on the project 18 months ago. And now, here we are with our very first aircraft. We started with just three people, and our team has grown to 140 individuals, including more than 50 pilots and crew. It is a dream come true,” he said.
Beond has a hub in the Maldives, and the airline plans to expand to additional hubs in the next 24 months. Beond is funded by a UAE-based investor - Arabesque - as well as the Maldivian hospitality company SIMDI Group.
Fleet and aircraft configuration
The Maldivian airline has taken delivery of its inaugural aircraft from American leasing and management company Bbam, with the second aircraft – an Airbus A321ceo – scheduled for delivery by the end of November. The second aircraft will have a configuration of 68 180-degree lay-flat seats.
The goal is to increase the fleet size to 32 aircraft and fly to 60 destinations in the next five years. Due to ongoing supply chain challenges, the airline plans to lease the first 18 aircraft in its fleet. “Purchasing aircraft is a lengthy process as manufacturers are not yet operating at pre-Covid production levels. On the other hand, leasing allows us to access readily available aircraft in the market,” explained Taskila.
Commenting on the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system, Taskila said passengers would be provided with Apple iPads instead of traditional seatback screens. The choice also reduces weight, improving fuel efficiency and being more environmentally friendly.
He explained: “We operate from the Maldives, which has stringent carbon dioxide and sustainability policies. Our aircraft’s lightness and fuel efficiency help us comply with these policies and make us 60-70 per cent cheaper. We’re striving to achieve 35 per cent SAF by 2025.”
The airline’s first aircraft can fly for up to eight hours. However, the company plans to introduce an enhanced aircraft version with a range of nine and a half hours. “In the following year, we’ll introduce the XLR (ultra-long range) version, which can fly up to 13 hours as we are exploring the possibility of flying from the Maldives to destinations like Australia, London, Japan, and potentially from other hubs for transatlantic routes,” he said.
“In early 2024, we’ll introduce routes to Milan and Bangkok, with plans to include Shanghai, Beijing, and Dusseldorf. We’re aiming to operate flights twice a week initially to cater to various holiday durations,” he said.
While most airlines opt for lighter colours, Beond chose livery in a dark shade that appears almost black in bright sunlight but is graphite grey, explained Taskila. “It’s the darkest colour possible without compromising on factors like air conditioning. We collaborated extensively with a German paint manufacturer and Airbus to achieve this. You’ll notice a flaky design on the paint that adds a unique shine,” he added.