HiFly’s A330-900neo: a new departure for a niche airline

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HiFly have recently taken delivery of an A330-900, brand new. It’s an unusual path for a specialist wet-lease and emergency replacement airline to take.

In the past both HiFly and others such as Titan, have always taken the route of buying in older used aircraft and keeping them in good condition, always aiming at a rung slightly lower than the original aircraft the airline might choose to use.

The principle of wet leases in passenger airline markets has always been to use secondary aircraft, when airlines are desperate enough to take on an emergency aircraft to operate for maybe a day or two, they don’t really care it’s not up to brand standards as long as it means they moved their customers from A to B.

Things are however changing and these new A339’s, near equal to or better than the latest generation of aircraft used by many airlines, is recognition that the market has shifted.

Three obvious recent incidents – the long running 787 Rolls Royce issue and before that the battery grounding, then the 737MAX , all of which will have run for up to a year or even longer, have made airlines think differently.

Until these mass groundings, short summertime or peak winter wet leases for maybe a week or two, and additional service when numbers are stretched, all that was run of the mill.

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These days the longer term charter, where a one-off sub-par aircraft might be OK in an emergency, putting one on every day for weeks at a time, that’s no longer acceptable.

There’s a growing need for fleet flexibility and the ability to maintain a core fleet, then bring in something decent to cope with high summer, you simply don’t need before mid-May or after mid September.

Add to that a growing market for premium charters – especially in the cruise industry which has grown dramatically in the past ten years, and there is a real market for premium unbranded charter aircraft.

The new A339 – HiFly have ordered ten, this is the second – is extremely well appointed.

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With 28 business class lie-flat capable seats, and a a decent of tightly packed 353 seat economy class with full in flight entertainment packages, the aircraft is laid out well. More than sufficient to fulfil a full service role as and when required, with all the modern amenities like in-seat chargers and so on that modern travellers expect.

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What that creates is a brand and service-centric airline airline demand only HiFly can supply.

Add ten A339’s and the A380, and the airline has found a way of fulfilling almost any niche across its fleet. From the cheap and cheerful bucket and spade brigade trip to the Spanish costa’s, all the way to the high end Viking Ocean cruise lines flying passengers to  South America to sail round the southern continents coast.

The introduction of the A339 is a clever strategic move, one HiFly may even expand on. I suspect the A380 – deespite Paulo Mirpuri’s support for it, is going to be an aberration. The A339 though – that might well be a stroke of genius.

The first aircraft is currently on a  wet lease and operated by HiFly for Air Senegal, and will remain there some time. Its just one more example of the type of business this type of approach can make profitable for an airline like HiFly. The second aircraft shown above is about to be delivered.

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