Global Airlines, the UK startup that aims to launch Airbus A380 operations from London to New York City and Los Angeles, recently revealed it has selected Lithuania-headquartered refurbishment specialist JETMS as its cabin completions partner for the jumbo jets. Company founder and CEO James Asquith subsequently appeared on a passenger experience panel at the Dubai Airshow, and is scheduled to speak again at the CAPA Aviation Summit on 28 November. In short, Global is staying visible and forging key partnerships.
However, its ambitious plan to become an all-A380 airline — it says it has inked deals for four of the type — has come under scrutiny, with some questions still outstanding. For instance, Global in late September announced its intention to work with Portuguese wet lease and charter specialist Hi Fly, whose Hi Fly Malta unit flew A380 aircraft between 2018 and 2020. “Hi Fly, who were the first to operate the A380 in the secondary market, will use their extensive experience of the aircraft to work with Global on not only preparing it for service, but on helping the new carrier realise its ambition to provide customers with the best way to fly on commercial services, as it prepares for operations,” stated the press release, somewhat vaguely.
But during the Routes World conference in Istanbul, Global chief commercial officer Richard Stephenson reportedly said Hi Fly’s Maltese air operator’s certificate (AOC) would be initially employed to launch Global’s operations. “The longer-term plan will be to move to a UK AOC in the future for scheduled operations,” Stephenson is quoted by Aviation Week as saying.
At present, however, it’s unclear to RGN if an AOC agreement has been finalized, with Global’s international corporate affairs director, Liam McKay, telling Runway Girl Network:
Hi Fly has a storied history with the A380. Our current focus is on using their expertise on the return to service programme for all our aircraft.
However, as we have outlined, Global and Hi Fly are open to exploring the full potential of the relationship.
Confirming that the Maltese registration 9H-GLOBL has been reserved for the airline’s first A380, McKay says: “We have agreed to acquire four aircraft. We are expecting the first to arrive in Europe early in 2024 for cabin refurbishment and maintenance work to begin.” As widely reported, including by Global, the startup’s first A380 was acquired from Doric Aviation. Details about where the remaining three aircraft are being sourced and their individual timelines will be released ‘when appropriate’, he indicated.
Looking beyond the initial four A380s, McKay explains to RGN: “We are concentrating on the aircraft already acquired but maintain a keen eye on the market. We are subject to the same challenges as all carriers but are hopeful, with support from Airbus, and with the expertise of Hi Fly, that we can find solutions that will help foster further confidence in the secondary market for the aircraft.”
Hi Fly, it seems, will therefore coordinate aircraft maintenance, while JETMS refurbishes the cabins. “To begin, JETMS will refurbish the first aircraft interiors to the highest standard, ahead of them taking to the skies for the first passenger flights. Later aircraft will see their interiors completely overhauled, exactly to the high specification of the new airline,” states Global in its press release announcing the arrangement.
“Global’s commitment to passengers is to provide an elevated product across First, Business and Economy cabins. And, ahead of a full release on new look interiors, the airline can confirm that leading aircraft interiors outfit, Factorydesign has created new concepts for both the version one and version two aircraft in the Global fleet.”
McKay assures: “We’ll shortly showcase a wider reveal of the Global product across all cabins.”
Global’s website understandably paints a rosy picture of the passenger-pleasing A380, noting among other characteristics its fuel efficiency and operational flexibility. Real-world experience suggests that the aircraft can indeed make sense on niche high-capacity routes. Otherwise, fuel savings and better profits are to be had flying widebody twins.
McKay points to Emirates’ winning A380 strategy: “Emirates has shown how to make the A380 a success. This summer we’ve also seen several other airlines bring the aircraft back or re-invest in it. We believe the best destinations for the elevated product and service we intend to bring to the market will be on mature, busy routes that thrive on competition.” Etihad, meanwhile, started returning A380s to service this summer, following the Covid pandemic.
Global’s website has much to say about the elevated product touted by McKay: “Global Airlines do things differently. From catering and customer relations through to scheduling and ground operations. Simply put we are unconstrained by the usual aviation paradigms.” How so?
“Delivering an incredible customer service for every step of the journey is vital. As a new market entrant we have the opportunity to integrate the latest technology into the Global experience, which we hope will give us a competitive advantage and be welcomed by both frequent and future flyers,” McKay responds. “We have the opportunity to think differently and deploy new approaches, thanks to this latest technology, but safety, as for every airline, will be the number one priority for Global.”
McKay now expects to see the first Global aircraft fly by late 2024, with scheduled services between London and New York the priority, followed by London to Los Angeles.
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Featured image credited to Global Airlines