David Neeleman's planned US start-up will eventually partner with Brazil's Azul and TAP Air Portugal for transatlantic flying, with the Airbus A220-300's range central to that long-term strategy.
"We can fly across the North Atlantic, down into the Caribbean and into Brazil," says Neeleman in reference to the commitment for 60 A220-300s bound for the unnamed US start-up planned by Neeleman, deliveries of which will begin in 2021.
Reports had previously surfaced suggesting that the airline would be called Moxy, but Neeleman says this was merely a working project name. Moxy is already being used by a hotel chain under the Marriott group, says Neeleman. "They got a bit upset about that," he says.
Neeleman says all 60 A220s will come from Airbus's planned A220 assembly facility in Mobile, Alabama. With three years to go before deliveries begin, he expresses confidence that a strong leadership team will be built. The start-up will focus on serving thinner routes including those to secondary cities.
He dismisses reports that he was searching for investors to provide capital for the start-up, saying: "We have the money." He declines to name his fellow investors or the amount of capital involved, saying only: "It is as much as you will need."
Despite working with a launch date in 2021, Neeleman is unconcerned about how the US airline landscape might change, such as the potential impact from an unforeseen economic downturn. "I've been through a lot of those," he says.
The US start-up will be the latest in a long series of airlines that Neeleman has helped create, including Azul, JetBlue Airways, WestJet and Morris Air. He said he would probably have embarked on a new US start-up "sooner" if he had not been occupied with Azul and his investment in TAP through the Atlantic Gateway consortium. Neeleman also holds a 32% stake in French carrier Aigle Azur.
TAP and Azul are in the midst of formulating a joint venture that will allow the airlines to work together across the Atlantic. Azul chief executive John Rodgerson tells FlightGlobal that the two airlines are still in negotiations and hope to conclude a deal by year-end.