How to Start an Airline: Part 1
At Simple Flying, we bring you daily news and information about airlines from all over the world; updates regarding airlines criss-crossing the world carrying passengers and cargo. But have you ever stopped and wondered what it takes to build a successful airline?
Welcome to the series that will aim to answer this specific question and many more. After all, starting an airline is more than just buying a plane, giving it a smart paint job, and declaring yourself open for business.
So sit back, relax and enjoy this voyage of discovery with Simple Flying. We recommend keeping your seatbelt loosely fastened as we may encounter some turbulence along the way.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome aboard this [insert aircraft type] of [insert airline name]. We are delighted to have you on board today for our flight to [insert destination]. Our road will take us [insert details of route] and will take about [insert duration of flight]. Sit back and relax and enjoy our in-flight service including [insert details of meal services]and we wish you a pleasant flight.”
Those who fly regularly will be all too familiar with the type of announcement above. Similar announcements are made on thousands of passenger flights every day. But who fills in the blanks? Who decides what kind of aircraft flies and where it goes? And how are these decisions made? More importantly, how did the airline you heard this announcement about even come into being?
There are simple, direct or quick answers to each of these questions. The question of how to start an airline is very complex. Indeed, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer.
There’s no manual to refer to, and no airline will tell you exactly how they find the answers to these questions for you to copy. Yet history has repeatedly shown that no matter how complex the challenge when considering if and how to start an airline, there has been no shortage of individuals and companies willing to rise to this challenge over the decades.
Virgin Atlantic is an airline started by one person with an idea and an ambition. Photo: Milwaukee Airport
The journey ahead
In this series, over the next few weeks, we’ll look at every step of the decision-making process for anyone wanting to start an airline. In the same way that pilots use checklists to ensure a safe flight for everyone on board, we’ll go over key issues point by point, creating an overview of the process.
The series does, however, come with a robust health warning. This will not be a one-size-fits-all guide to starting an airline. Nor does he intend to be.
When reading this series, you should remember that each scenario brings unique issues and complications. Geographical, political, social and economic factors all play their part. It would be impossible to write a truly precise guide for every possible scenario an airline might settle into.
That said, some aspects of the process are generic, regardless of where you plan to start an air carrier and whether it’s even carrying passengers, cargo, or a combination of the two.
The series should give you insight into how an airline is formed, what are the processes that any startup airline will navigate, and the myriad of hurdles and pitfalls that planning an airline operation can encounter, from concept to maiden flight.
Airlines come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Photo: Chicago O’Hare International Airport
With success also comes failure
It is often said that for every airline that successfully navigates this process and takes off, hundreds are left with just an idea, fanciful concepts, or even a collection of aviation-related words defined in a business plan. stored on a computer hard drive.
People have been flying in powered aircraft for only 119 years. Yet in this era, airlines have moved from carrying a single passenger and a mailbag across a country to airports the size of large cities accommodating jetliners the size of small villages. And each of these planes requires an army of staff to get it back in the air, time and time again.
The process that leads to these events, all with a military-style degree of coordination, is as awe-inspiring to the viewer as it is difficult, frustrating, and undoubtedly sleepless to those who design it.
And yet, there has never been a shortage of individuals or companies willing to give it a shot. Even in the past two years, with a global health pandemic sweeping the globe, new airlines have been born, with individuals and businesses eager to try.
The motivations behind starting an airline can vary wildly, from deep-pocketed individuals wanting a vanity project to a community project to serve rural or isolated communities for humanitarian reasons. And from serving an international intercity route between two major cities around the world to operating multiple short sector hops between tropical islands, they’ve all been tried at one time or another.
However, history is littered with the carcasses of airline failures. Concepts that were once hopeful, exciting and exuded dazzling ambition, but have stumbled and failed, some almost straight out of the blocks. Others, of course, become both major international brands and household names, carrying tens of millions of people around the world for business and pleasure every year.
Thomas Cook has joined the growing list of airline casualties in 2019. Photo: Thomas Cook
A complex and winding process
When passengers arrive at an airport for a flight, they are also arriving at the very end of an extensive process that has gone into ensuring that a suitable aircraft takes that passenger to their chosen destination. Yet with just one missing link in that process chain, any aircraft supplied for the job wouldn’t even start its engines, let alone leave the ground.
However, despite appearances, there is indeed a lineage that runs through each new plane common to all. We hope to unlock the DNA within this lineage and, in doing so, explain why each element of the process is vital. This will be regardless of what your own airline’s particular concept may look like.
Although this series analyzes these processes step by step, they will require different decisions to be made both in isolation and in sequence with each other. This series will not follow the “once you’ve done this, do this” format, as it’s not an accurate depiction of what happens in the real world.
While some links in the chain depend on a previous link being completed first, many will not. There is no straight line connecting the beginning of the journey in creating an airline to the end.
PLAY has started operations lately, despite many obstacles, including COVID-19. Photo: PLAY
Our flight plan
This series will go over the basics of what any airline concept must go through to get it from the drawing board to flying with paying passengers and/or cargo. We will walk through the most important steps of this journey to reach the destination with a clear and simplified explanation of what is involved.
Flight operations, finance, marketing, commerce, in-flight products and services, and airport services are just a few of the core functions necessary for the survival of any airline, but there are many more. This series will look at the more obvious aspects of starting an airline and some less obvious ones that you might not expect to see in such a list. Important or not as they may initially seem, without them not a single passenger would ever be transported or a single kilogram of cargo ever transported.
Over the next few episodes, we’ll chart a course through the following topics, stopping at each point to take a closer look at what’s to be found there,
- Development of a business plan
- Planning and infrastructure
- Aircraft selection and procurement
- Passenger experience
- Selection and acquisition of critical support services
- Sales, marketing and promotion
- Team Recruitment
- Launch events and maiden flights
- Conclusions – arrival at the final destination
Ready to go?
This series will examine why so many airlines fail, the most common pitfalls and events that could never be foreseen. Rather, it will also examine why some airlines have managed to find the aviation equivalent of alchemy, turning a mediocre idea into an extremely successful business that, in some cases, delivers a truly fantastic passenger experience.
The series aims to open eyes and minds. It will get you thinking, think more about key issues, and give you a better idea of what is going on to ensure that announcements like the one featured at the very top of this article will continue to be repeated over and over on planes. , for many years to come.
Let’s go and learn how to start an airline. Photo: Fraport
Let’s be clear before we begin – we’re not embarking on this journey so that by the end of it you will feel fully equipped with the knowledge you need to try it out for yourself. The series will certainly not replace the fictional manual mentioned above regarding the creation of an airline.
Even less is expected at Simple Flying to be besieged by readers inspired by the series to contact us to tell us that they have just purchased a 40 year old Fokker F28 on the internet and wondering what to do next!
However, this series will hopefully give you a better understanding of what is involved in creating and launching an airline, the decisions, the planning, the hard work and the excitement. As we eagerly await you to join us for the next installment of this insightful series, we will end this introductory article in the same vein as how we began –
“Thank you again for deciding to travel with us today, and we welcome you aboard!”
We hope to see you soon on the next episode of the series, “Part Two – Developing a Business Plan”.
Our journey is now well underway. Photo: Jet Star
PPE rules eased as India resumes regular international flights
About the Author