French Polynesian startup FLY CORALway has ditched its plans to use the A220 for its operations, at least for now. To begin with, the airline will fly the Airbus A320 family, potentially the neo, but may revisit the A220 idea further down the line. CEO Olivier Moana Bole explained to Simple Flying the reasons behind this shift.
No A220 for FLY CORALway
Tahiti-based airline startup FLY CORALway had floated its plan to become an A220 operator, connecting South Pacific islands to destinations as far west as Nandi and Noumea. That was more than a year ago, and things have moved on since then. Now, the airline is looking northeast, as far as Hawaii, as well as the South Pacific. Even more interesting, it has, for now, shelved its plan to operate the A220.
Speaking to Simple Flying as part of our Future Flying Forum, CEO of FLY CORALway, Olivier Moana Bole, told us that he still considered the A220 to be the best option for his needs. He said that he believed the A220-300 as the perfect aircraft in terms of its range, its performance, and its new technology.
Indeed, he believed that the newness of the aircraft was a big positive, given that maintenance costs in the South Pacific can be very high, and could be restrictive on an older aircraft. However, coming to the launch of the airline in the post-COVID environment has forced Bole to look elsewhere for his initial fleet needs, as he explained,
“The A220 is not available at competitive costs on the market. We have been working with Airbus to evaluate what the best alternatives are. We’ve been looking at the Airbus 319 and the 320. Now, we are fully focussed on the A320 because the lessors still have plenty of these on the ground. The 320 gives us options, and particularly the A320neo, because that gives us the range to fly direct from Tahiti to Hawaii and Tahiti to Noumea, for example. We’ve got a good six hours flying time available with those, without having to decrease the payload at all.”
Olivier hasn’t given up on his A220 ambitions entirely. The CEO states that the A320s will form the backbone of his fleet for the first five years or so. After that, he’ll revisit the options and see what he best fit for the airline is then. He noted that the A220-300 or even the hypothetical A220-500 would definitely be under consideration.
Another reason not to go for the A220 at this early stage of its career is to avoid FLY CORALway being stuck with unaffordable maintenance costs. Olivier explained,
“Being based in French Polynesia, and being a startup, we don’t want to invest in maintenance by ourselves. We have to consider pooling with other airlines within the region for the maintenance. And we don’t have any options for the A220 today in this region. However, for the A320, we’ve got Airbus skills in Hawaii, in Fiji, and in New Caledonia. So, we’ve got on the network capacity to pool with other airlines for the maintenance.”
He further noted that there is a smaller talent pool from which to draw for this airline startup. Fewer pilots are around to fly the A220, and fewer engineers. The A320, being a far more widespread aircraft, does not have this problem. He noted he has already received applications from A320 pilots and engineers who are keen to work with FLY CORALway.
As far as a launch date goes, the jury is still out. The CEO’s focus right now is on securing investment to get going, of which he stated he is seeking around €12 to €15 million ($13.5 – $17 million). He joked that the investment level is too big for regional investors but too small for big investors. Nevertheless, the enthusiastic CEO is convinced that the business model will work, and with luck, we could see FLY CORALway taking off soon.