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4 Start-Up Airlines To Watch in 2022 & 2023

Cover image: Akasa Air


At the last count, the global aviation industry is in the midst of a modest boom of in start-up airlines, with over 130 start-ups preparing for take-off in 2021 and 2022. Thanks in part to discounted operating costs an influx of new carriers are springing up in every corner or the global aviation industry.

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While current aircraft utilisation continue to lag behind, falling far short of pre-pandemic levels, it seems that market conditions mirroring the 2008-2010 global financial crisis are a breeding ground for brave and bold start-ups to thrive. Looking ahead for the rest of 2022 and the coming year, IBA highlights 4 new operators from around the world that we will be watching closely in the coming months.

1. Bonza


Founded by former Virgin Blue administrator Tim Jordan, Bonza is set to join the market as the latest low-cost carrier in Australia. Delays in delivering Bonza's initial Boeing 737 MAX aircraft pushed back the Air Operator Certificate ‘AOC' acquisition process, and the carrier is expecting to commence operations in September 2022. The operator is backed by Miami-based 777 Partners.

The issue remains as to how many airlines Australia can realistically support. Qantas and a new Virgin Australia are competing on trunk routes, and Rex Airlines is using ex-Virgin Australia aircraft to enter the narrowbody market. In addition, Koala Airlines is looking to acquire the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to join the competition. Notably, 777 Partners is working hard to replicate the business model of low-cost carrier Flair Airlines in Canada, and this has not been without its problems. Amongst other issues, the operation has encountered problems with foreign ownership rules and Cabotage.

The big questions for new entrants to the Australian market are these; How many new entrants can the Australian market take, and will they be gambling on stimulating traffic that major carriers have previously ignored?

2. Greater Bay Airlines


Hong Kong's Greater Bay Airlines is positioned as a ‘value carrier'. Within original planning to commence operations in late 2021, ongoing travel restrictions brought about by China's ‘zero Covid policy' have caused several delays to launch. Once active, the operator would become Hong Kong's eighth airline. However, the inescapable fact is that Hong Kong's capacity is down. While low-cost airline capacity is expected to beat pre-pandemic levels this year, the Asia-Pacific region will recover slower than the industry average.

Current capacity in Hong Kong is down by around 80% in the summer of 2022 compared to 2019, and China's aviation industry is having to take drastic measures to prove effective in difficult times. To make matters worse, Hong Kong Airlines recently asked its A330 pilots to take up to 7 months of unpaid leave, signalling little faith in the near-term prospects for the market.

This may prove an opportunity for a start-up like Greater Bay Airlines to hire staff cost-effectively as they look to establish a route portfolio consisting primarily of Hong Kong to Southeast Asian destinations (and eventually incorporating services to the mainland). That said, the last notable Hong Kong airline start-up, HK Express, was founded in 2004 and later acquired by Cathay Pacific in 2019.

3. Arajet


Whilst not strictly a start-up airline, the Dominican Republic-based Arajet has made a notable switch from a charter model to an ultra-low-cost carrier (‘ULCC') model. The airline appears to be aiming to exploit a geography that is generally underserved by low-cost carriers, with the airline identifying the Dominican Republic and wider Caribbean area as clear opportunities.

We find the backing of aviation investors Griffin Global Asset Management and Bain Capital Special Situations particularly encouraging, as well as a strong leadership team with experience in other ULCCs, including Wizz Air. Aviation intelligence from IBA Insight reveals that 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8 family aircraft on order for Arajet, with the option to switch to MAX 8200 aircraft. The airline is anticipated to commence operations in Spring/Summer 2022.

4. Akasa Air

It's been some time since we have seen a new start-up airline enter the Indian market, with many fledgling low-cost carriers struggling soon after commencing operations. This was particularly notable in the case of AirAsia India which was eventually acquired by Tata Sons and renamed AIX Connect. Akasa Air placed a substantial order for Boeing 737 MAX family aircraft at the Dubai Airshow in late 2021, including options for MAX 8 and 8200 models. The Indian consumer is typically quite price elastic, and carriers typically struggle to pass on any substantial increases in input costs. With its investment in new-generation aircraft and solid financial backing, we are looking forward to monitoring Akasa Air's performance as it enters this challenging space.


IBA Insight flexibly illustrates multiple asset, fleet, and market positions, actual and potential, to inform client choices and identify acquisition opportunities. Immediate access to crucial aircraft, engine, lease rate and fleet data eases appreciation of historic and future aircraft concentrations and operator profiles.


Learn more about IBA Insight


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