Business Insider – August 24, 2023
Bermuda just got a little more accessible.
On Thursday, new airline BermudAir officially launched as the archipelago’s only carrier flying year-round service to and from the US. The move comes after the startup earned approval from both country’s aviation authorities to begin flights.
The inaugural flight will be on August 31 from Bermuda L.F. Wade International Airport to Boston Logan International Airport, and bookings are now open to the public.
Flights to Westchester County Airport in New York — which is about 30 miles away from Manhattan — will start the same day, while service to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will commence in late September.
What’s unique about BermudAir is that it plans to only offer business class onboard its fleet of 30-seater Embraer E175 planes — meaning, once launched, it’ll join French boutique airline La Compagnie as one of only two all-business class carriers operating in the world.
“I’d like to consider us as the world’s first short-haul business class airline, where our seats are very much like pods,” company CEO Adam Scott told Insider. La Compagnie, for context, flies long-haul between Europe and the US.
However, supply chain issues have delayed the all-business class configuration, so the first few months of flying will see 88-seater jets only filled to half capacity.
Take a look at what passengers can expect onboard BermudAir’s E175s once the “Aisle Class” cabin is installed.
On August 31, the very first BermudAir flight will leave the island bright and early at 7:40 a.m. before touching down in Boston two hours later.
Flights to Westchester County will begin on the same day, the first flight leaving at 3:55 p.m. Service to Fort Lauderdale will start a few weeks later on September 22.
According to a schedule shared with Insider, all roundtrip flights will operate once daily on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. However, flights to Westchester County will increase to twice daily on September 15.
However, the inaugural — as well as all flights through October 25 — will not follow the initial plan. Instead of all-business class, the aircraft will have 88 economy seats in a 2×2 layout.
BermudAir explained in a press release that it does not plan to book the plane to capacity, however.
“Only 44 seats will be sold for each flight — all with both window and aisle access and plenty of space for carry-on bags — ensuring a comfortable and spacious in-flight experience for travelers,” the company said.
A spokesperson told Insider that “unforeseen supply-chain issues” caused the last-minute switch up, but that the carrier plans to launch the unique “Aisle Class” on November 1.
BermudAir said this “phased introduction” was prompted after the carrier started “seeing contraction of air service for fall and winter.”
It believes the modified layout can enable it to “fill the service gaps now and establish frequency of service ahead of our full-scale, Aisle Class launch in November.”
Despite the unexpected presence of coach seats onboard the inaugural flight, the E175s will still have business-like perks.
This includes free inflight WiFi, messaging, power, and entertainment, at least one checked bag (depending on the fare), under-seat storage, and “a distinguished level of onboard service.”
The service will feature “freshly prepared light meals and beverage selections” using ingredients sourced from local partners in Bermuda, according to the airline.
Described as “game-changing seating suites,” the all-business class configuration will be a 1×1 layout, meaning everyone has direct access to the aisle.
According to BermudAir, the design enhances privacy and space — similar to what JetBlue Airways has done with its Mint Suite onboard its Airbus A321neos flying between the US and Europe.
Scott told Insider that the target market for this operation is both business and leisure travelers, as well as outbound and returning residents.
“Bermuda has robust business demand and it has a very high-end leisure market, which is especially strong during the summer months,” he said.
“We’d like to see that continue throughout the year, of course, with Bermuda being a paradise a very, very short distance away from New York and Boston.”
Upon launch in late August, BermudAir will compete directly with JetBlue in Boston, and indirectly with JetBlue, American, Delta, and United in the New York City area.
While BermudAir will fly out of Westchester County, American, Delta, and JetBlue offer nonstop service to the island nation from the nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
United offers nonstop flights from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the new airline will be the sole operator flying nonstop between Fort Lauderdale and Bermuda come September 22.
Despite the competition, Scott told Insider the BermudAir business model has a leg up on already-established carriers because of its E175s.
Specifically, he explained that it’s difficult for mainline carriers like American and Delta “who don’t have aircraft geared for this specific market, and the specific demands of this market” to offer the frequency that is “demanded for by the hour.”
According to Google Flights, American, Delta, and JetBlue all fly mainline narrowbody planes to and from Bermuda.
“If we can have the right sized aircraft, put the right number of available seats into the marketplace with the right product, and offer the time savings that airports like Westchester will provide for our passengers, then we think we’ve got a winning formula,” Scott told Insider.
According to a company spokesperson, introductory fares will start at $199 USD.
Google Flights shows the cheapest nonstop flight from New York area airports to Bermuda on an established US carrier on August 31 is United’s $228 basic economy fare — which does not come with a carry-on or checked bag.
BermudAir, on the other hand, costs $299 from Westchester and includes bags.
However, these low fares are likely to be short-lived. Customers can expect prices to shoot up once the Aisle Class is installed, with Scott telling Insider before the cabin switch-up that fares would start at $1,000 each.
While BermudAir appears to have big ambitions, this isn’t Scott’s first rodeo as the CEO is also the brain behind another startup carrier called Odyssey Air.
The carrier hopes to one day operate all-business class Airbus A220s to and from London City Airport in England — but it still has yet to launch after more than 10 years of business.
“Odyssey is a company that still exists and that we are still pursuing,” Scott told Insider. “It’s on, let’s say, a little bit of a hiatus while we do this near-term pivot to BermudAir.”
In fact, he told Insider that BermudAir is a “proof of concept,” noting Odyssey may have been too quick to enter the market as the A220 wasn’t even available yet when the airline incorporated in 2010.
Scott told Insider that his team still believes in its all-business class model, saying Bermuda is a “mini version of London City with very similar demographics and a similar target audience.”
“What we’re aiming to do here is to prove our theories, which are largely that if you can offer a fantastic experience with frequency so that you are relevant to your core audience, then the sky’s the limit for us,” he said.