It has been a while since Australia last saw a new airline started from scratch. OzJet rose and fell over the 2005/06 summer. Tigerair had a better run, flying from 2007 until 2020. Starting an airline is a tricky and costly business but the smell of aviation fuel keeps pulling the would-be airline moguls in.
And recent memories of 2020 and an almost ruined airline industry haven’t stopped another airline industry insider from deciding he’d like to have a crack at Australia’s competitive domestic aviation market.
Choose from brad basic, brad plus, or brad class on brad
The story of Australia’s newest startup airline was first reported by The Australian newspaper’s Robyn Ironside on Monday. According to the report, a Perth-based former pilot named Brad Coombe is behind the would-be airline. Mr. Coombe wants to fund the launch via crowdfunding and keeping things simple, he plans to name the airline after himself – brad.
Brad Coombe told The Australian he’s eyeing a fleet of narrowbody twin-engine jets to scoot around Australia, saying Australians are over the status quo.
“We think it is time for a change,” Mr. Coombe said. “brad will be the answer to easy and affordable three-class travel in Australia.”
Mr Coombe also intends to name the three cabin classes after himself – brad basic, brad plus, and brad class – cabin class names that should disturb every girl who has ever had a vaguely unsatisfactory relationship with a man named Brad.
brad crowdfunding its way to an air operator’s certificate and its first plane
Many aviation experts query whether Australia can support the existing carriers offering narrowbody twin-engine domestic jet services, let alone another player. But Brad Coombe argues now is a good time to start an airline. His timeline to be in the air is 12 to 18 months.
Between now and then, there are a few issues to sort – such as regulatory approval, licenses, aircraft, employees, funding, and so forth. Initially, Mr Coombe aims to raise funds via crowdfunding, imitating airlines elsewhere they have ventured down that path. He needs to raise around US$2.25 million to secure the all-important air operator’s certificate and lease one plane. So far, crowdfunding has raised around US$1940. But this week’s burst of publicity may help things along.
While Mr Coombe is setting himself an ambitious timeline and has several hurdles to overcome before anyone buckles up in brad basic, his crowdfunding strategy isn’t a new one in the industry.
Crowdfunding an airline a tall order
One of the best-known previous crowdfunding cases is Switzerland’s FlyBair. In 2019, the would-be virtual airline based in Bern targeted raising US$one million via crowdfunding. A few years earlier, UK startup flypop turned to crowdfunding to raise around $7 million with a view to flying between the UK and India. Airports have also targeted crowdfunding in order to lure airlines back.
Cashed up and sophisticated airline investors do not usually take a punt on would-be airlines via the crowdfunding route. They prefer more tried and true methods, like buying convertible bonds or taking equity stakes.
But if the startup airline fills a market niche rather than just replicates what other airlines are doing, and targets its marketing well, crowdfunding can have a half-decent chance of working. FlyBair was put together by Bern Airport as a way of restoring air services to the Swiss town. The crowdfunding campaign was supported by local accommodation houses, tourist operators, and private individuals because FlyBair would reopen transport links and bring people to the town. There was a clearly discernable benefit and dollar value for Bern locals in FlyBair getting up and running.
But if Mr Coombes want to replicate that success with brad, he’s going to have to pitch a pretty unique product offering. Offering low fares and decent service isn’t new. Local carriers Rex, Jetstar, Qantas, and Virgin Australia can all manage that when they try. Running a few leased Boeings or Airbus aircraft between Australia’s capital cities isn’t going to revolutionize the airline industry or excite the traveling public much.
To get his money and then his namesake airline into the air, Brad Coombes will need to think outside the box. Good start with the name.