Crises can bring out the most surprising displays of confidence and resilience. Right now, airlines are not in a good place – many are seeking financial support, some are filing bankruptcy. Yet in the midst of it all, others are apparently forging on ahead.
What do you do, if you set out in MAR19 with a vision of starting a new airline and launching your inauguration flight in the summer of 2020? You demonstrate flexibility and adapt your plans.
When it’s not quite all Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
Zipair studiously did its homework from the moment its registration as Japan’s first Medium to Long-Haul Low-Cost Carrier (owned by Japan Airlines Co) was announced back on 08MAR19. It began preparing for a launch in the summer of 2020, calling for applicants, and working on increasing its capital. Uniforms and livery were designed, and on 05JUL19, the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism accorded Zipair Tokyo Inc. its Air Operator’s Certificate. Plans continued with cabin design and the decision to operate from Narita’s Terminal 1, more capital was generated, and everything was looking good for the initial flight from Tokyo to Bangkok on 14MAY20. Then COVID-19 hit, stopping everything.
On 09APR20, Zipair announced that it would regrettably be postponing its first flight. Yet, not soon after, on 21MAY20, it published that it had applied for permission to instead run four round-trip cargo flights per week between Tokyo Narita and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport from 03JUN20 on.
And, indeed, on 03JUN20, it used one of its two passenger B787, laden with 13 tons of general cargo, to fly to Thailand, returning to Japan with 17 tons of electronic components. Though the airline has since also issued a postponement of its planned Seoul passenger service, a company spokesperson stated “We have found that we can make ends meet with our cargo business, even without passengers, thanks to our large-sized aircraft” and the demand is certainly there given the lack of cargo capacities through the groundings. There is also a good balance in commodities expected with Japan able to export car parts to Thailand and import chicken and other food items.
Zipair, in true, efficient, solution-oriented, Japanese fashion, has made the most of the situation and taken off after all.
We are voyagers, but will we voyage?
Another passenger airline hoping to take off with regular services from Varna, Bulgaria, to the German destinations of Bremen, Munich, Stuttgart, Muenster/Osnabrueck and Erfurt from JUL20, is Bulgaria-based Voyage Air. Owner Stefan Ivanov has a fleet of two B737-500s which he is also intending to fly to Poland and Ukraine in his late summer schedule. The company itself has been around since 2006 and has mainly been involved in maintenance and aircraft sales or parts dealing, it states on its somewhat scant website. According to https://www.alternativeairlines.com/voyage-air, however, it is in possession of an Aircraft Operation License (AOC) BG-53 since 2015, allowing it to transport passengers and cargo. Interestingly the description goes on to say “Today, Voyage Air uses over a decade [sic!] of aviation expertise to fly passengers from Bulgaria to other European countries such as Poland, Germany and Austria.” Yet, it seems to have had a rocky run up in the past few years, postponing its launch more than once. Time will tell if it will really take off this time. A rudimentary online booking service is showing ticket prices for JUL already, however all its other social media channels (including the defunct Google+) are even less forthcoming than its basic website.
A “fresh face in the cargo sphere”
This is what the United Sky Cargo startup claims to be. On its website (www.unitedskycargo.com), the Frankfurt-based airline announces tapping into the freight business by operating B747-400 and B757-200 freighters, offering the market ad-hoc, charter, and ACMI business options. Meanwhile, the management consisting of Mathias Nordsiek, a former A330 Training Caption at leisure carrier SunExpress, and co-owners Klaus Dieter Martin and Piter Tom Kraus has started a recruiting campaign seeking experienced Captains, First Officers, Type Rating Instructors and Type Rating Examiners, underlining in the ads that “recency is an advantage.”
It is not yet known whether the company is in possession of an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), nor if an application for this has been filed at German regulator Luftfahrt-Bundesamt. In principle, the LBA does not provide any information on approval procedures.
Also, it is unclear whether first arrangements with capacity providers or even preliminary contracts with leasing companies operating freighters have been signed. The management did not respond to repeated enquiries from CargoForwarder Global.
On its homepage, the company lays it on thick. There it says: “United Sky Cargo pilots, loadmasters, cargo specialists, sales agents, and worldwide support teams have a knowledge of all matters air cargo second to none. The pillars of our strategy are a thoroughly dependable service for our regular customers, and a high degree of flexibility for ad-hoc charters, on a broad range of missions, at competitive rates.
With a global network of agents and contractors, we keep a close watch on your consignment, at any point in the transport chain.”
Concluding remark: It would be desirable if that “thoroughly dependable service" as claimed above, could also apply to the newcomer's communication policy. Heiner Siegmund
Oh WOW! Just wow… but when?
WOW is an enigma. Since the originally Iceland-based airline stopped operating back in MAR19, plans have gone a little underground. The airline was acquired soon after by Michele Ballarin, an American (West Virginia) businesswoman with an extremely varied background ranging from designing children’s clothes (“I was known as the Coco Chanel in the children’s industry”) to apparently being known as “Amira – Mother of Somalia” and negotiating with Somali pirates in an effort to bring peace to the country, to arms dealing, investment banking, and now a non-flying, low-cost passenger airline owner. The initial plan was to have 2 aircraft up in the air again by OCT19, first as a customer-experience improved passenger airline, but then that changed to focusing on cargo instead. Neither plan materialised.
A global reach from Martinsburg, U.S.…
Yet now there is talk of it becoming a “worldwide cargo airline” according to WOW Air’s latest and very brief press release on 05JUN20: “WOW air Cargo is proud to announce the commencement of worldwide cargo operations from its US base in the capital region on the East Coast at Martinsburg. West Virginia. The facility is 100 000 square feet of hangar and warehouse with 25 000 square feet of administrative offices for global dispatch operations.” To be fair, Ballarin does have some experience with cargo airlines, having apparently been involved in setting Air Djibouti back on its feet and establishing a cargo carrier Oasis Air Services (part of Oasis Air Group) flying between Dulles and Djibouti a couple of years ago. Also, over the past few months, three new managers have been appointed: on 06MAY20, Dmitry Kaparulin as Country Director Russia & CIS, with a strong airline background and last having worked at AirBridgeCargo, 13MAR20, Magnus Magnusson, as Managing Director of WOW air Cargo - Global, based in Reykjavik, and on 06FEB20, Giuseppe Cataldo as Director of WOW Italy, based in Rome and Sicily.
Pie in the sky?
WOW’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages have recently been recycling old passenger airline videos from 2017 and 2018 and reiterating WOW’s message of “coming soon in 2020”, but with no information as to when exactly that will be. As one LinkedIn commenter asked, “Will this venture take off or is this a fairy-tale?” WOW wrote back “A fairy-tale coming alive” but that really remains to be seen.
I’m betting Zipair’s the only winner in this round. What do you think?
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