A new all-business class airline promising a ‘private jet’ experience is launching flights to the Maldives using Airbus aircraft with lie-flat beds — meet Beond – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

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DAVID RAUDALES UK

A new all-business class airline promising a ‘private jet’ experience is launching flights to the Maldives using Airbus aircraft with lie-flat beds — meet Beond

Beond is a new all-business-class airline flying between Europe and Asia and the Maldives starting next month. Return fares start at $2,000.

Beond

Maldives-based Beond is a new all-business class airline launching flights next month.The carrier will fly between Malé and cities across Europe and Asia, with return fares starting at $2,000.Beond is starting with one Airbus A319, which sports lie-flat seats but will make a stop for fuel on some routes.

The Maldives is about to get a little more accessible.

Dubbing itself the world’s first “premium leisure” airline, Maldives-based startup carrier Beond is launching point-to-point flights between cities across Europe and Asia and the nation’s capital of Malé starting in November.

At a press conference in Dubai on Wednesday, the new luxury airline unveiled its first plane: an Airbus A319, complete with a unique all-business-class interior. The company said it expects to receive Airbus A321 jets next year.

Take a look at what customers can expect onboard the airline’s newly unveiled A319, which has been customized to offer a “private jet” experience.

Founded in January 2022, Beond has an ambitious goal of acquiring 32 aircraft and serving 60 destinations within the next five years.The unveiling of Beond’s A319 livery.

Matheen Faiz/Beond

So far, the carrier has one A319 aircraft.

The company has emphasized it is not a “business” airline targeting corporate travelers, but rather a “luxury leisure” carrier focusing on travel for tourism.

Prompting the rapid expansion goal is the significant premium leisure demand that Beond sees in the region.One of the luxury resorts, Gili Lankanfushi, in the Maldives.

Courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi

Beond is approaching a pretty niche market with its point-to-point luxury leisure network, which will connect Malé to Zurich, Munich, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, starting in November.

The Riyadh inaugural will depart on November 9, the Munich route will launch on November 15, followed by flights from Zurich starting on November 17.

Milan and Dubai were announced as additional routes on Wednesday, slated to start in late March 2024.

Because the Maldives is a predominantly tourist destination, Beond plans to attract high-paying leisure travelers with an all-business class plane.Beond flight attendants pose for a photo on the A319.

Matheen Faiz/Beond

The idea is to create a budget-friendly, yet still high-end experience for luxury-seeking travelers with a little extra spending money.

“We believe in affordable luxury,” Beond CEO Tero Taskila told media on Wednesday.

The A319 unveiled on Wednesday is equipped with 44 lie-flat seats in a 2×2 configuration.Beond’s all-business-class A319.

Matheen Faiz/Beond

The A319 passenger jet can fit up to 160 people, according to Airbus.

The customized cabin was designed by Italian manufacturer Optimares, which has also designed lie-flat loungers for Four Seasons and TCS World Travel’s private jets.

Beond’s cabin setup is rare in the airline industry, with France’s La Compagnie being the only other long-haul airline to currently use a similar business model, flying Airbus A321neo jets across the Atlantic. Startup carrier BermudaAir also only offers business class but without the lie-flat function.

The layout, however, means window seat passengers will not have direct-aisle access.The beds blocks one set of exit doors, which Beond told Insider is allowed given the number of seats onboard. The pair of exit doors about two feet ahead of this seat is operable.

Beond

When the aisle seat passenger extends the bed, the person in the window will not be able to directly access the aisle without waking up their neighbor or stepping over.

This is likely not a big deal for people traveling together. However, it is an issue major airlines have been actively addressing as they introduce new business class seats.

The seat also lacks a proper inflight television, replacing it with an Apple iPad accompanied by wireless headphones.Apple iPads are supplied on Beond’s flights.

Beond

The tablet has a designated slot on the seatback for viewing.

Customers can use the iPad to view food and drink options and watch movies or shows. It also has Bluetooth capabilities.

Customers will still have the convenience of a lie-flat bed and power ports, and will be served premium meals onboard.Customers can expect Michelin-star food onboard Beond.

Beond

According to Beond, some routes will fly up to 12 hours — meaning sleep and meals will be necessary to create an elevated long-haul experience.

Travelers can also take advantage of limo transfers and airport lounges, where available.

Some travelers may also appreciate the coziness of a narrowplane plane compared to a widebody on long-haul routes.A rendering of Beond’s Airbus narrowbody.

Beond

Airlines like JetBlue Airways and United Airlines fly narrowbody Airbus and Boeing jets across the Atlantic, though they are equipped with both business and economy products.

The smaller single-aisle airliner is particularly convenient for carriers because it allows for a quick turnaround. Beond says it can turn its jet in less than an hour, which will help optimize its fleet utilization.

Despite the high-end cabin, Beond says it will keep its fares competitive.Beond customers can enjoy wireless headphones.

Beond

“We are [in] a unique position that we are without any legacy, we are a startup, we’ve thought up innovation,” Taskila said on Wednesday. “So, we are able to have that cost efficiency that allows us to keep the prices very competitive.”

Initial fares put roundtrip flights at around $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the season and the route.Jeddah-based Saudia will compete with Beond between the Maldives and Riyadh.

Markus Mainka/Shutterstock

Taskila told media on Wednesday that roundtrip flights from Riyadh would cost $2,000: “I believe that’s quite competitive considering the other options,” he said.

Beond’s pricing is just under Saudia’s $2,050 fare for business class between Riyadh and Malé in mid-December, though the Jeddah-based carrier’s seats are on its Boeing 787 and have direct-aisle access.

Flights to Europe are expected to be the priciest. Currently, a December roundtrip flight on Beond from Zurich to Malé costs about $3,740.Edelweiss flies an Airbus A340 quad-engine plane between Zurich and the Maldives.

Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

A ticket around the same time on Swiss carrier Edelweiss, which flies the same route, is priced at about $6,400 at the time of writing.

Edelweiss’ nearly more expensive flight will not have a fuel stop, though.

The lower overall fares are thanks to efforts made to reduce weight, as well as having only one aircraft type, according to Beond.The livery on the Beond A319 tail.

Matheen Faiz/Beond

Building an all-Airbus fleet will streamline crew and maintenance operations.

Beond is expecting even further costs-savings once its gets its upcoming A321 planes.

There is one problem with its current A319 aircraft, though — it requires a fuel stop in Dubai on flights to Europe.Al-Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, also known as Dubai World Central or DWC.

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP via Getty Images

This fuel stop at Dubai World Central, which is separate from the city’s main international hub, means flights between Malé and both Zurich and Munich will still have a “layover” on the way.

This may take away from the luxury, but Taskila said he believes it is still the “fastest and more convenient” option, “It is a technical stop, just to fuel, in Dubai, and then continue to the Maldives.”

A fuel stop in Hanoi on the way to Seoul and Osaka is also indicated on Beond’s route map, though neither service is officially scheduled.Beond route map showing scheduled and future routes.

Beond

A route map published by Beond on its website shows several additional cities that the airline likely hopes to fly to one day.

These include the two aforementioned Asian cities in Korea and Japan, as well as Hong Kong, Taipei, Vienna, Paris, and Astana, Kazakhstan.

However, the inconvenient fuel detours in Dubai and the planned Hanoi are expected to become actual nonstop routes once the A321LR/XLR versions are put into service as they can manage the distance, Taskila told media on Wednesday.

Another potential inconvenience is the flights are not daily, but Taskila said this is intentional.Flight attendants outside the Beond A319.

Matheen Faiz/Beond

“When you travel to the Maldives, you don’t go there for one night,” the CEO told media, noting the carrier is starting with two frequencies but could go up to three or four per destination, depending on demand.

“You could be at the destination for four days, you can be there seven days, you can be there 10 days or 14 days,” Taskila continued.

While Beond has big dreams and a unique business model, it still faces tough competition.Power ports and control panel on Beond’s A319 seats.

Beond

Beond is entering a market where already established airlines have a cut of the market share and a base of loyal customers.

Several other carriers already operate the routes Beond has scheduled to launch, like Edelweiss from Zurich and Saudia from Riyadh.

Rob Morris, global head of consultancy at aviation data firm Cirium, told CNN that Dubai is already “presently well served from Malé.”An aerial view of Malé, Maldives.

niromaks / iStock

According to Cirium data, there was an average of seven daily roundtrip flights between Dubai and Malé in August 2023, split between Flydubai and Emirates.

“This includes around 12% of those seats in premium class. Competition on that route will be challenging,” Morris told CNN in August.

He noted there “may be more opportunity” on the underserved route between Malé and Delhi, India, which is on Beond’s list of planned destinations.

Nevertheless, Beond’s ambitious plan is all set to launch in November as international travel continues to boom post-pandemic.Beond hopes to serve some 60 cities by 2027.

Beond

“We are a niche carrier in a way that we are operating purely a private jet experience on a full premium class cabin and there are people who appreciate that kind of environment,” Taskila told the South China Morning Post in August.

Despite the uncommon strategy, Beond says luxury leisure travel is the industry’s “fastest growing market segment” and believes deep-pocket customers will pay for a premium experience to the Maldives.

Read the original article on Business Insider