The new year has started with exciting developments within the UK long-haul airline scene. Hans Airways, a Birmingham-based start-up has just signed a Letter of Intent for its first Airbus A330 – Key.Aero has all you need to know about this ambitious new company:
What aircraft have they secured?
A Letter of Intent for an Airbus A330-200, newly registered as G-KJAS, (c/n 950) was signed in the first week of the new year. The registration is a tribute to the surname of one of Hans Airways’ principal early investors, who, according to a statement from the airline, “has believed in its community airline model since the project was conceived in 2019”.
Where was the jet before joining Hans Airways?
The aircraft was delivered new to Air Europa in September 2008 as EC-KTG. After a brief winter season with Sweden's Novair in 2011/12, the widebody returned to its original operator and was in active service with the Spanish carrier until early 2020. Since then it has been stored at various sites including in Spain and most recently in the United Arab Emirates.
What about the configuration and passenger experience?
According to Hans Airways, they will be retaining Air Europa’s two-class setup with capacity for 275 economy travellers (with a 31in seat pitch) and 24 in premium economy (offering a 56in pitch). Only limited details have been released about the wider passenger experience on board, however the fact that the smaller cabin is being billed as ‘premium economy’ rather than business class suggests that this won’t be a top-end product trying to compete with the likes of Emirates and Qatar Airways. Hans Airways says it is aiming to “blend value for money fares with a quality inflight service offering with a high quality of complementary inflight entertainment and catering as standard”.
How the new Hans Airways A330-200 is due to look
Where will Hans Airways fly?
The UK’s newest airline is due to launch scheduled flights between Great Britain and India later this year. Comments from company executives suggest that secondary destinations in India are the target, tapping into an enormous diaspora looking for easier ways to travel between the UK and their native cities, without having to connect in Dubai, Doha, or Istanbul.
What about on the UK side? Will Hans Airways fly from London?
No, at least not initially. The fledgling airline will operate from Birmingham, situated in the heart of the Midlands and sitting comfortably within a strong catchment area for UK-India traffic. It is unclear at this stage if further UK airports are part of the business model.
Will the airline actually take off, or is this just an ambition?
While the pandemic has prompted a few false starts for global aviation start-ups, Hans Airways appears to be making real progress towards a 2022 launch. The carrier applied to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in March 2020 “following extensive discussions with the CAA and Department for Transport” and “is hopeful of obtaining the status in time to start revenue service this summer ”. Its application for an Operating Licence and Route Licence has already been published by the CAA. While these in themselves don’t guarantee a successful launch, they are good indications that things are moving in the right direction.
Birmingham will be the centre of Hans Airways' initial operations
Isn’t there already a lot of competition between the UK and India?
Yes, the historic links between the two countries mean there are well established air connections between the nations. In non-pandemic times these typically include dozens of flights a week with legacy carriers such as British Airways and Air India, alongside the likes of Virgin Atlantic and Vistara. While there is no shortage of options to Mumbai or Delhi, Hans Airways says it has identified real demand for high-quality services to India’s secondary cities which currently involve at least one change of flight, usually in the Middle East.
This all sounds rather familiar - what about flypop?
The concept of a UK-based airline flying Airbus A330s direct to smaller destinations in India is very similar to that of flypop, although there are some subtle differences. While Hans Airways has not yet revealed the specific airports in India that it plans to serve, flypop has already said that Amritsar (ATQ) in Punjab and Ahmedabad (AMD) in Gujarat will be first for the carrier. Flypop also has its corporate headquarters at London/Stansted Airport and will be focusing operations at the Essex gateway, unlike Hans Airways which will be centred on Birmingham.
While similarities can be drawn between Hans Airways' business model and that of flypop, the latter will focus its efforts at London/Stansted
Any word on codeshares or alliance membership?
Nothing has been announced about airline partners, which isn’t entirely surprising for a carrier which is yet to fly its maiden service. Historically companies prefer to make deals with operators who have established themselves as being sustainable and reasonably well established in their core markets. That said, Hans Airways has confirmed a loyalty programme is on the horizon. It will be known as HAPEEI (Hans Airways Passengers Environment Education Initiative), and “will reward passengers with all the regular benefits of a frequent flyer programme with a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility, create opportunities to donate to children’s educational charities in India or conservation and water preservation projects”.
What about recruitment?
The first set of flight crew, comprising four pilots plus cabin crew started their first day of training on January 3 in Crawley, near London’s Gatwick Airport. Han Airways confirmed that IAGO Flight Training is their flight training partner and L3 Harris Commercial Aviation is supplying the simulator. The new recruits were welcomed by Satnam Saini, investor Kirpal Singh Jass, and Nathan Burkitt, the airline’s director of flight operations and crew training.
What are company executives saying?
Speaking on January 13, Hans Airways’ CEO Satnam Saini said: “We are delighted to have achieved this very important milestone in our two-year journey. Our scheduled operations centre on the Airbus A330, a popular and spacious long-haul widebody, excellent for cargo too, and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us to ratify this agreement at the start of the new year.”
Key.Aero will continue to monitor the progress of Hans Airways and other global start-ups throughout 2022.