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This New Luxurious Airline Goals to Carry the Non-public Jet Expertise to Your Maldives Trip

This New Luxurious Airline Goals to Carry the Non-public Jet Expertise to Your Maldives Trip

Flying to the Maldives from Zurich, Riadyh, and Munich may not sound like a viable flight plan for most U.S. travelers. The stunning island nation is primarily a vacation hotspot for Europe, Africa, and Asia, but a bit too far for most Americans. But Beond Airlines could well be a template for an adventurous U.S. air firm looking for a fresh business model. Based in the Maldives’ capital, Malé, the start-up believes it has found a sweet spot between business class and business jets.

U.S. firms like XO, Aero, and JSX sell individual seats on select routes, and the Four Seasons has configured its aircraft’s cabins with plenty of room for week-long trips for its members. Beond takes a different approach, with 44 lie-flat seats in the company’s single Airbus A319 that currently comprises its fleet. In the commercial airliner version, the A319 has 110 to 156 seats. In Beond’s cabin, the seats are in pairs on both sides of the aisle, but staggered to accommodate the lie-flat configuration. Besides the extra space, the sleeper seats are a bonus for its long-distance, overnight flights, comparable to flying from New York to Milan, or Los Angeles to Costa Rica.

Not a private jet layout, but more spacious than most business classes. All 44 seats are lie-flat for overnight flights.

Having launched in November 2023, Beond plans to grow its fleet to seven in 2025, when it plans to take delivery of a larger Airbus A321 followed by longer-range A321neos. “We considered the Boeing 737 as an option,” Tero Taskila, CEO and cofounder of Beond, told Robb Report. “But the fuselage of the A320 is more spacious and the A321 has more range in a lower-density configuration.”

Taking a cue from the airlines, Beond also divides its fare structure into three categories: Delight, Bliss, or Opulence. The least expensive fare, Delight, has a $25 surcharge for selecting a seat and doesn’t include access to the airport lounges in both destinations. Bliss includes both of those bennies. Opulence has all these perks, plus a private chauffeur transfer, a more generous baggage allowance, free booking changes and, starting in July, use of an Apple Vision Pro.

Beond Airlines lie-flat seats.

The beds are designed for the carrier’s overnight flights.

Beond Airlines

Roundtrip fares from Zurich to Malé range from $2,205 in Delight during low season to $4,090 for high season in Opulence. Considering the cheapest round-trip fares from Zurich to Malé with competitors such as Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, start at around $4,200, even in low season, Beond’s boutique offering is something of a bargain. It’s dirt cheap considering a private charter jet would be 20 times as much.

Boarding with an Opulence ticket in Zurich, I had no idea what to expect from an airline that markets itself as “the world’s first luxury leisure airline.” “The cabin is different,” Taskila noted in our conversation. “We tried to create a distinguished private-jet-style cabin that’s not directly comparable to business class.”

The Maldives

Beond is targeting wealthy vacationers to the Maldives who want a more luxurious and less expensive business-class experience.

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There are, in fact, more similarities with business class with Beond’s 2-2 cabin configuration than the layouts of most business jets. It’s definitely not a private-jet experience, though the quality of service and food could go head to head with many charter and even some fractional providers. And the extra space is dramatic compared to a conventional airliner.

I also probably had a more private experience than the typical Beond flight, since I was only one of six passengers on the flight from Zurich, with just five on the return flight. I imagine a full flight would have had the flight attendants scrambling, rather than waiting on me for much of the time.

How was the experience? Generally very pleasant, considering it was an 11-hour flight. There were a few lows like pre-departure in Malé, which included time in the tired, outdated Leeli lounge (which will be replaced by a Beond lounge when the new terminal is completed.) On the other hand, I was the only passenger in the Aspire-run lounge in Zurich, and made the most of the Champagne a la carte dinner. The required fuel stopover in Dubai is also disruptive for anyone trying to sleep through, but the company says the longer-range A321neos will eliminate that. They don’t make you get off the plane, like other international destinations.

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Beond luxury airlines.

This Airbus A319 is Beond’s only aircraft, but next year it plans to add six other larger Airbus jets with modified interiors.

Beond

The service was professional and personalized, with some flexibility thanks to the low guest head count. The attendants let me change my breakfast from just after departure from the fuel stop to pre-arrival in Zurich, which helped prolong sleep time. The frittatas were much better than the breakfasts on most first-class flights I’ve taken, though the instant coffee wasn’t on par. The Maldivian lobster dinner on the return flight was on par with 5-star resorts I’ve stayed at, and markedly better than the lobster I had on a recent Singapore Airlines Suites flight.

The seats were comfortable, though they could’ve used adjustable headrests, but the soft pillows and bedding meant extra points. I tried both seat types: the regular seats with narrower footwells, and the eight “ottoman” seats with more space for stretching your feet and legs. Instead of screens on the seat backs, Beond opted for iPads at each seat, with wireless Bose headphones. The content is mostly Arabic-language films and music, with limited options for Westerners. I would give the overall experience 4.5 stars out of 5. Taskila says they’ll be tweaking details going forward.

Beond plans to expand its routes to Milan, Dubai, and Bangkok later this year, with goals to fly to China and Australia. Long-term, it plans to add hubs beyond the Maldives and fly to other vacation hotspots like the Caribbean. Which begs the question: Why doesn’t an American start-up adopt this business model for the U.S. market, flying to the Caribbean in winter and Europe or Hawaii in the summer? It seems ripe for the taking.

Source: Robb Report

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