One of the biggest corridors for aviation might have (another) a new entrant in 2022. While the United Kingdom – India market is already served by no less than four carriers, Air India, Vistara, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic, they are all focused on the O&D and transfer market that operates via London Heathrow. A new airline now plans to get in the mix. UK start-up Hans Airways hopes to launch UK-India services this summer out of Birmingham.
To put the UK-India market into perspective: in Q4 2019, over five million people traveled between India and the United Kingdom, as per India’s DGCA statistics, not accounting for those who flew one-stop on a European or Middle-East based carrier. Until the demise of Thomas Cook that same 2019, passengers had a choice to fly on charter services to tier two stations in India such as to Goa. However, scheduled operations are largely flown between Heathrow and a gateway airport in India such as Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore. A new airline intends to change the dynamic, by operating between Birmingham Airport and Tier 2/3 airports in India, such as Amritsar, before Indian carrier IndiGo receives their A321XLR aircraft to be able to operate these segments.
In 2020, flypop announced plans to launch services to India out of London Stansted, but the UK airline founded by Nino Singh Judge still has to operate its first passenger service with its Airbus A330-300 sourced from Avolon The airline now plans to offer cargo services until the frequency cap on UK-India services is increased, it said in November when Flypop partnered with Hi Fly for cargo flights.
Hans Airways still waiting for AOC
In this competitive market, another start-up is trying its luck: Hans Airways. Founded as a privately owned airline in October 2019, Hans was presented in June last year, three months after it applied for its Airline Operator Certificate (AOC) with the UK’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAA). It hoped to get approval in the third quarter and launch the first direct services to India from its base in Birmingham before the end of 2021, but still needs the secure the AOC. The plan is now to launch around this summer.
Hans Airways announced earlier this week that it has signed a Letter of Intent for the lease of its first aircraft, an Airbus A330-200. The Airbus has been sourced from Carlyle Aviation Partners and started its career with Air Europa in September 2008, was leased on to Swedish airline Novair in December 2011 but returned to Air Europa in March 2012. It has had a few owners since and was parked in January 2020. The A330 has been in Abu Dhabi since December 29. Hans plans to maintain the aircraft in its original cabin configuration: 274 Economy Class seats with a 31-inch pitch and 24 Economy Plus offering a 56-inch pitch. It will provide complimentary inflight entertainment and catering as standard.
Led by CEO Satnam Singh Saini, Hans Airways calls itself a “hybrid, long-haul airline venture, blending value for money fares with a quality inflight service offering.” A loyalty programme is planned. To be known as HAPEEI (Hans Airways Passengers Environment Education Initiative), it will reward passengers with all the regular benefits of a frequent flyer program and with a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Passengers can donate to children’s educational charities in India or contribute to conservation and water preservation projects.
High demand for secondary links
Hans Airways’ has identified a high demand for regular secondary city air links between the UK and India, drawing on its CEO’s experience instigating a series of charter flights for Monarch Airlines and FlyJet. In terms of slots, which is always an issue for those airlines planning flights to Heathrow, Birmingham Airport should be a breeze, with the airport itself spending some amount of money to get the marketing of the route done from their marketing dollars.
Not just that, the ability to funnel through without having to pass BOM/DEL and catch a second flight to get to their eventual destination, and also fly without having to fly via London Heathrow on the other end, might also keep the costs low, and also allow the airline to get through to the Indian diaspora which is spread through the country.
On January 3, Hans has started training the first crew of four pilots and cabin crew in Crawley. It has started recruiting Captains and First Officers since August when it announced a partnership with Swiss company Resource Group and its subsidiary ContractAir.
(Additional reporting by Richard Schuurman)
Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.