Start-up Firnas Airways is busy working on its regulatory check-list and securing the necessary finance to formally launch what will be the UK’s newest independent regional airline. It is targeting a third quarter start, initially serving short haul charter services with 19-seat BAE Jetstream 31 aircraft. One aircraft is already painted in its colour scheme and was presented to interested potential investors late last month.
“Our investment programme is on schedule and going extremely well,” says entrepreneur and founder CEO Kazi Rahman, who has garnered an impressive team of airline professionals to help him realise his plans, advise and fine-tune its business strategy.
Firnas Airways plans to enter the market and fill a niche, important segment in the sub 50-seat aircraft category, complementing a market dominated by low cost carriers and full service, legacy airlines.
Firnas, named after the legendary eighth-century Spanish inventor and scientist Abbas ibn Firnas, lesser known pioneer of the flying machine, has identified unserved and under-served smaller airports with strong catchments, in phase one of its business.
It will serve the sort of airports where passengers enjoy short check in times, quick turnarounds and customer friendly service, all on one level. Airports like London Oxford, London Southend, Waterford and Isle of Man Ronaldsway are on the wish list.
“We are building a community airline where our investors will help us choose where we fly,” says Kazi Rahman. Our extensive research over the past 18 months shows us there is a notable gap in the 19-seat market, especially in charter, which is where we will start, before moving into regular, scheduled flights. We will start path-finding regional routes with up to two Jetstream 31s, building up to move into bigger 50-seaters,” he said.
Fund-raising through Eureeca
Firnas Airways, first registered in 2014, is raising capital under the UK’s fully HMRC-endorsed Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). Fund-raising via Eureeca.com, a multi-regulated global crowd-funding investor platform, it is targeting angel investors who will embrace the airline’s vision to grow and develop. Future fund-raising rounds will target major institutional investors. (All raised funds are secure in a segregated account with Eureeca).
The business is working to raise a second £0.5 million in capital (for a total 12.5% of the business) and is now almost 60% on the way to its goal. Fund-raising started with a 15% discount on shares, now reduced to 5% before it moves to 0% following the next £70k of pledged investment. These additional bonus shares will be issued on a first applicant basis.
The energy and dedication to succeed displayed by Razi Rahman, British Muslim Entrepreneur of the Year 2017, has encouraged Channel 4 TV to follow him on his journey. An hour-long documentary is underway to air shortly.
“Firnas Airways pledges to bring back personalisation with its regular air services and commitment to customer service, with the trusted twin-turboprop as the platform. Today’s regional airlines have matured into 70-seat aircraft. Scheduled services have diminished notably in favour of ACMI, sub charter work for bigger airlines so there is a gap in the market,” added John Brayford, a former British Airways and Flybe senior executive. John returned to the UK last year to help Kazi realize his plans, having served at the helm of a number of emerging airlines in the Middle East and South Asia. John will serve as managing director and accountable manager.
Skybird AC Ltd, which is leasing the aircraft to Firnas, will steer its operations. Jon Ibbotson (CEO of Skybird) decided to join the team determining Firnas’ business plan was “one of the best he had ever seen” in the aviation sector.