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Less than four months after launching operations, Rayani Air, the Malaysian airline that pitches itself as fully Shariah-compliant, has been grounded.
Jitters about further flight cancellations will typically derail any prospect of a re-launch.
With senior management telling Flightglobal that Rayani now needs “another investor” before it can even consider resuming flights, the outlook seems bleak. In purely financial terms, Rayani appears to have stumbled at the first hurdle facing any start-up airline: cash-flow.
When an unknown carrier enters the market, many passengers will be reluctant to patronise the company until its reputation is cemented by word-of-mouth reviews and positive media publicity.
This “unfamiliarity factor” often translates into load factors – or seat occupancy rates – well below 50% during the initial launch phase.
The trouble for management is that low sales do not equate to low overheads.
Airlines have notoriously high fixed-expenses – it costs roughly the same to fly a full plane as an empty one – so sustaining operations is only possible with large cash reserves.
Launching an airline with limited coffers or over-optimistic projections for revenue and load factor is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
When news broke earlier this month that Rayani’s pilots had gone on strike – allegedly due to non-payment of salaries – it became clear that Alagendrran’s team had miscalculated their finances and run out of cash.
Their fate was sealed by the negative headlines that followed.
Rookie mistakes Poor fleet selection appears to have been another of their rookie mistakes.
Aircraft, like motor vehicles, vary in value according to age.
Selecting the right vintage is not a perfect science, but management will usually try to balance reliability with price.