Here’s Why Avatar Airlines Won’t Fly A380s

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Avatar Airlines is America’s most promising airline startup (and has been for the past 28 years). A few days ago I wrote about the company’s generous offer to British Airways.

Well, Avatar Airlines has reached out to me to both thank me for my “excellent optimistic report” about the company’s future, and also to shed some light on my A380 suggestion.

If Avatar is going to fly 747s, why not A380s?!

Avatar plans on being an all-Boeing 747 airline, and it has offered British Airways’ parent company a 22% stake (which it values at $165 million) in exchange for the 26 Boeing 747-400s that the airline is retiring.

Perhaps a future Avatar Airlines 747?

Not only that, but Avatar wants this to be part of a larger partnership with British Airways, whereby Avatar can provide feed to British Airways’ network within the US (presumably Avatar thinks it can do something that American Airlines can’t, because American and British Airways already have a transatlantic joint venture).

I humbly suggested that if Avatar Airlines is going to acquire 747s, why not just acquire A380s? Airlines are starting to retire A380s (including Air France and Lufthansa), so these planes should be readily available on the secondhand market.

Avatar Airlines could become an all-A380 airline flying exclusively within the US. That seems like a brilliant business model to me.

Avatar Airlines explains why the A380 isn’t a good fit

Avatar Airlines’ Chief Operating Officer, who is a former United Airlines 747 captain with 20,000+ hours, sent me an email to explain why the airline isn’t trying to get A380s.

He acknowledged that the airline had been considering this for about 10 years. You know, great minds think alike.

Why did the airline ultimately decide against the A380?

  • There are very few airports in the US that can accommodate A380s
  • Meanwhile many secondary airports could accommodate the 747, and may only require minor modifications, like dual jet bridges
  • You can’t fly A380s into Rockford, or Sanford, or Albany, or Trenton

Then he provided some more background that I find quite interesting. Why does Avatar Airlines want such big planes at all, rather than starting service with 737s?

  • It doesn’t work with the carrier’s plan to minimize crew costs (only two pilots are needed on 747s, while eight might be needed to fly a similar number of people on 737s)
  • It also doesn’t help with plans to minimize landing fees, gate fees, and fuel costs
  • Avatar Airlines doesn’t plan on offering frequent service to any airport, but rather plans to fill up planes with low fares, and passengers will go when the airline has service
  • Avatar Airlines may only operate one flight per day at small stations, but the airline will need a big plane to make it profitable

So basically Avatar Airlines will be like Allegiant, except with 747s. Could we soon see 747 service from Clearwater to Roanoke, Cedar Rapids to Punta Gorda, and Sanford to Des Moines?

Bottom line

There you have it, now we know why Avatar Airlines plans on exclusively operating 747s, rather than A380s. Unfortunately for Air France, that means it’s unlikely the carrier will be offered any sort of a stake in Avatar Airlines in exchange for its A380s.

Here’s to hoping British Airways takes Avatar Airlines up on this offer, and that 747s make a return to the domestic US skies!

  1. My question is ‘Why a 747’? You sure you can fill at least 50% of the seats on flights to Rockford, or Sanford, or Albany, or Trenton?

  2. Why not a Concorde?

    After all you are talking about a fictional airline, they can fly whatever they like…

  3. I fly Allegiant frequently as they are the only direct connection between my two homes (Sanford/Orlando and Asheville). Doesn’t hurt the flight usually costs me <$50, either. The only problem I could potentially see here is how *LONG* it would take to load and unload the 747's. A lot of the people who fly these discount carriers are not frequent fliers and thus the whole process moves quite slowly.

  4. “Avatar plans on being an all-Boeing 747 airline, and it has offered British Airways’ parent company a 22% stake (which it values at $165 million) in exchange for the 26 Boeing 747-400s that the airline is retiring.”

    Give us your planes for free in turn you get to bet on our success. Doubt that IAG has much interest in becoming a shareholder in that venture (particularly given that they could hand over the 747 fleet to Level and let them fly ’em) and be subordinated to virtually everyone if Avatar inevitably goes belly-up.

  5. Fascinating. Avatar’s model would turn the narrow-body, high-frequency model on its head. If (British Airways was willing to play along and) Avatar could get BA’s unwanted 747’s added to its fleet, then that would mean no cash expense/payments for aircraft acquisition and low expenses (on a per-passenger basis) for pilots.

    Not sure Avatar’s idea will come to fruition, but it would be neat to see 747’s flying around for another decade or more in the U.S.

  6. I think after 28 years of trying to get off the ground, the name Avatar is appropriate. That is all the airline will ever be. Besides, the FAA won’t even take them seriously. I think BA is having a good chuckle over their proposal.

  7. In all seriousness if they can sell tickets for 19.99 I don’t see why this model wouldn’t work. Whether or not 10k of rev covers all costs is another story. Lol

  8. Are they going to deck these out with max economy seating (ala Allegiant/Spirit)? If so isn’t that like 500+ seats? (:

  9. Ben – this isn’t the first time that a comedy US airline start-up has flown to Trenton and Islip – do you remember BALTIA? BALTIMORE, TRENTON, ISLIP AND ALBANY…

  10. We are all so bored, that we have actually wasted our times commenting on such a ridiculous story.
    While we are still wondering if the Pros (AA,DL,UA,WN,B6) are going to survive these times, can anyone really believe in such a ridiculous business venture ??? LOL

  11. PGD doesn’t have the runway length for loaded 744s. Damn it — back to the drawing board for another 5 years.

  12. Perhaps they should revisit the idea of the A380, and approach Emirates, who currently have lots of spare airframes and also might seek feeder-routes into their US-gateways ?

    I mean, if it works for B744s, just imagine how much lower the fares might be, on all-economy A388s !

  13. If this is a serious proposal, I can’t see Dougie and AA being too happy about having their role of feeding BA planes taken away.

  14. Avatar CEO ex 747 Captain?
    US Company?
    US Domestic flights only?

    Try these reasons for not flying the unquestionably more economical, and it is well documented more comfortable 380

    Avatar just remains loyal to bouncy Boeings.

    This is only one side of this best joke of the year/decade/century. And one flight a day that pax will wait for? Bigger joke.

  15. A better business plan would be a modified 747 which piggybacks a modified space shuttle, with high density seating in the cargo bay.

    Mid flight, from say Miami to LA, the space shuttle could detach for those wanting to get off in Dallas.

    On the next LA to Dallas flight, the shuttle could be reattached to the 747.

    Avatar should be bold, don’t do this by halves.

  16. I’m avoiding making a joke about this. It would be nice to have BA’s 744s back in the skies and not broken up at Kemble and I could see this happening. I can see Señor Cruz thinking this is a good idea, so maybe. If this did happen, it would be interesting to see if BA or other IAG airlines would be interested in feeding whichever regional US airports (probably not those in IA) they’d serve. BA already do CHS and can take dreamlifters so… Actually CLT has relatively cheap landing fees and it’s a hub. Just not sure they’d be able to park a 747 at the new terminal A (the only non international terminal that AA don’t have a monopoly over).

  17. Such a joke of an article…and not April Fools! I thought even the name is suspect; ‘Avatar’, meaning ‘an imaginary online image’ (or an Hindu deity). What an awful name for a ‘serious’ airline start-up.

  18. Why did they photoshop winglets onto a 747-8i when they have raked wingtips? Or did they photoshop the engine nacelles from a 747-8i onto a 747-400?

  19. OMG.
    Starting an airline now is just crazy!
    Widebodies domestically?
    Fuel hogs!
    Especially the 747.

  20. One light at the end of this ludicrous saga is

    Ex CEO of IAG Willy Walsh, ex Ryanair, I believe
    CEO of BA Alex Cruz ex Vuelling

    Both [extra] low cost carriers

    Maybe they’ll finally agree a takeover from Avatar and alchieve their objective of turning BA into a low cost carrier. They’re not far off already.

  21. 747 into Trenton-Mercer? Maybe a landing with serious overrun into the woods. No need to worry about a takeoff. But who worries about such detail.

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