Airline launches are full of clich駸. New carriers often promise a "new chapter in aviation history." Many announce a "new dawn in business travel" and the word "revolution" is bandied about as often as "solutions" at a software convention.
The European launch of Oasis Hong Kong Airlines had all the old favourites, yet there was something in the way they were delivered that was slightly messianic. The answer lay in the founder's former profession - the Rev Dr Raymond C Lee was a pastor (the doctorate, incidentally, is an honorary title in business administration). Mass transportation was, in his words, akin to the Lord's work. "I find being able to transport millions of people around the world, who had previously not been able to afford flying, a very spiritual aim," the Reverend explained.
Rev Lee is chairman of the Oasis real estate group and one of three investors between them ploughing around HK$780 million ($100 million) into the start-up airline that bills itself as low-cost long-haul. Flanked by his well-groomed, exuberant wife Priscilla and team of other aviation experts, he unveiled the airline's new livery (designed by a swanky Japanese graphics company, with no-doubt welcome input from the Lees and their team) to the
Love him or loathe him, Michael O'Leary of Ryanair knows a thing or two about paring costs back to a minimum in all areas of his business. The Irish low-cost carrier's press conferences have only recently moved to a city of
Yet Oasis saw no contradiction between the sumptuous surroundings of the main ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, complete with logos etched onto the Louis XV mirrors, and talk of operating costs so low that one way fares of HK$1,000 to
This high aircraft utilisation is based, however, on an 11.5h flight, initially only four times per week. The low-cost strategy is further enhanced by having UK-based flight crew accommodated between flights in
In the airline's defence, the cash-rich carrier owns its two Boeing 747-400s and is ramping up destinations served to add
Yet as I left the briefing clutching a 1:200 scale model 747 and the nicest in-flight toiletry set I have received since the launch of now-defunct Phuket Air, I could help wondering whether the multimillionaire pastor had really gotten the whole budget traveller ethos.