Newly established luxury airline Beond has showcased its first passenger plane at the Dubai Airshow.
The company's business model aims to offer an experience more similar to flying by private jet than premium or business-class travel on legacy airlines.
"You are part of an exclusive club on the aircraft," Tero Taskila, chief executive and chairman of Beond, told The National. "Our service means you don't have to board with 300 or 400 other people on the same flight."
The all-premium class airline showcased its first aircraft – an Airbus A319 – on Monday.
It comes as Beond this week prepares to launch its first flights from Riyadh, Zurich and Munich to the Maldivian capital, Male.
Future plans include flying from the Maldives to Dubai, Bangkok and Milan next year.
Elevating the flying experience
Mr Taskila says the airline's goal is to "get into people's emotions".
"One of the best compliments we've received at the Airshow is that the aircraft has exceeded expectations. When we were designing it [the plane], we wanted to make sure that it hit all the right points of sustainable luxury; how it makes people feel and how the interiors feel in people's hands."
He noted the majority of passengers have been booking the airline's most luxurious package, which includes baggage allowance, fast-track boarding, complimentary premium seating, lounge access and premium transfers. A one-way ticket from Munich to the Maldives starts at $2,331.
"That is a testament that our passengers' want to elevate their experiences," he said.
He describes typical Beond customers as people who travel to sports events, holidays, honeymoons, or those seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"We had one passenger ask us if they could fly in their private jet to Munich to take our aircraft to the Maldives because they loved our product so much."
Luxury at the forefront
Mr Taskila describes Beond as a "timeless luxury that doesn't want or need to compete with airlines that have the biggest TV screens".
Its first aircraft seats only 44 passengers in a two-two layout, instead of the usual 156 passengers in an all-economy layout.
Beond also has collaborations with various resorts on the island, meaning passengers can take private seaplanes and speedboats direct from Velana International Airport straight to their holiday destination.
"That's luxury leisure travel. This is not for business travellers. Our customers are travelling as honeymooners, celebrating anniversaries, or families on vacation," he said.
Seats, configured in rows of two and which recline flat, are equipped with gadgets such as iPad Pros and wireless headsets, replacing traditional aircraft entertainment systems.
"The power of iPad Pros gives us an immersive experience all provided by Apple so it is what sets us apart from other airlines," Mr Taskila said.
"We are reinventing that experience. Everyone else gives you champagne and a chauffeur. We wanted to execute that better so our on-board experience feels more luxurious than other airlines."
The seats are designed by Italian manufacturer Optimares, which previously supplied similar interiors for a custom-designed Four Seasons A321 private jet. They share the same components with LaFerrari, a luxury sports car that was priced at about $1.5 million when it was released in 2013.
Several parts were manufactured by the Ferrari factory in Milan, which keeps the seats light and robust.
"Being able to say we have the lightest premium seats enables us to fly further but also keep our emissions low. That's very important to us," he said.
Mr Taskila acknowledged Beond's commitment to ensuring it meets the Maldives' strict climate-change goals in launching its fleet, which is designed to be as light on traditional aircraft fuel as possible.
"We are currently taking part in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) programmes, so we will have a larger percentage of sustainable fuel than any other airline by 2025, and 2030 is the next milestone. We are speaking to our destinations about when that fuel will be available and we are committing to make that happen by May next year."
The airline has also committed to being plastic-free with locally sourced catering supplies where possible to reduce its carbon footprint.
Beond aims to fly 32 aircraft from Male to 60 non-stop destinations within five years.
"Every new aircraft we will introduce will bring with it three or four new destinations," Mr Taskila said.
An Airbus A321 will be added to the airline's fleet next year to fly passengers from Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East to the Maldives.
The airline is also eyeing Al Maktoum International Airport as a potential hub in the future.
"We are seeing how the Dubai market is developing and whether there is space for us as a hub carrier. But for now, we are focusing on the Maldives and creating that link to Dubai, the Middle East and the rest of the world."
Thousands attended the first day of the Dubai Airshow at Al Maktoum International Airport on Monday, the largest yet, which will run until Friday, November 17.
The event has attracted more than 1,400 exhibitors from 148 countries, with more than 180 aircraft on display.