• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Amedeo plans airline-for-hire service using its fleet of A380s

Amedeo plans airline-for-hire service using its fleet of A380s

Dublin-based aircraft-leasing company plans to offer airline-style services for hire using a fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos in a bid to breathe new life into the struggling passenger jet programme.

Amedeo, one of the world’s largest lessors of A380 aircraft with 12 jets under management and a further 20 on order, is planning to offer seats to existing carriers or new disruptive entrants such as Airbnb from 2022. The leasing company, formerly part of Doric Lease, plans to apply for an air operator’s licence next year.

Mark Lapidus, Amedeo chief executive, believes that the air transport industry is ripe for disruption, with aircraft ownership and operation likely to become secondary to the brand-led services, price and convenience that airlines or others can offer to passengers.

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“The airline business is commoditising in all classes,” Mr Lapidus said. “Joint ventures and codeshares are making passengers feel accustomed to buying tickets with one [airline] but flying with another.” He is proposing to offer space on the world’s biggest passenger aircraft to a club of airlines and non-traditional aviation players, who would retain control over sale and distribution of tickets, but use his cabin crew to deliver an in-flight service tailored to their standards.

However, airlines and analysts were sceptical about the prospects of Mr Lapidus’ proposals. One large carrier said it would not consider the concept.  Rob Morris, head of consultancy at Flightglobal, said that the idea was “interesting” but would be difficult to implement. “Brand is really important. Airlines are happy to contract out the back office but anything customer-facing is very difficult to contract out because of the risk if a contractor does not deliver,” he said. “It could work for a low-cost operator who wants to get established. But it smacks a little of desperation. They will really have to work hard.”

Amedeo’s proposal comes as questions intensify over the future of the A380 aircraft, which has not won a new customer in almost two years. A widely expected order from the aircraft’s biggest operator, Emirates Airline, failed to materialise last week at the Dubai Air Show amid last-minute disagreements with manufacturer Airbus over price, technical details and delivery schedules. The order, which is still expected in the coming weeks, would guarantee production of the aircraft until the 2030s.

Amedeo was founded to focus on the wide-body market and in particular the A380. However, the first aircraft to enter service has already been returned to the lessor, German leasing group Dr Peters, and has so far failed to find a second-hand buyer. Amedeo has not yet found a customer for its 20 aircraft on order.

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Mr Lapidus denies suggestions that Amedeo’s order is at risk of being cancelled due to difficulties in finding airlines willing to lease the superjumbos. “We will take delivery,” he said.  The Amedeo chief believes that the best way to exploit the company’s assets is now no longer to lease to airlines but to operate it under what he believes could be a new model for air transport.

Mr Lapidus said he was in early-stage discussions with a number of possible customers — including potential disrupters to the aviation industry such as Airbnb, which is looking for ways to enter the market without having to deal with the highly complex regulatory regime. “For them the premise should work well,” said Mr Lapidus. “They keep [the] customer, they keep the margin, we just charge a transparent, very competitive utility return on a capital fee.”

“The airline is designed not to create a model that competes with airlines but a model that services airlines and fills the gaps in their network by offering them a lift service that goes well beyond the traditional chartering concept,” his business case argues.

The Amedeo boss acknowledged there were significant hurdles to overcome, from acquiring slots at capacity constrained airports to hiring crew at a time of severe pilot shortages. However, he is hoping to attract pilots over the age of 45 with “more flexible . . . conditions and lifestyle-driven working arrangements”. Mr Lapidus said he had already received indications of support from large A380 operators for elements such as training of cabin crew.

Peggy Hollinger, Industry editor