Who the F*&@ is BermudAir?

Airlines, Who the F*&@ Is

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile, so… let’s do it. BermudAir is a new airline that’s going to start flying to the US this week, so we should all probably learn about it. It’s a creative idea for sure, but the math suggests this is not going to work well beyond a very small niche operation.

BermudAir is claiming to be “Bermuda’s first flagship carrier.” I’ll take the airline at its word, because I’ve never heard of anyone else making that claim. Chances are that you know Bermuda because of the infamous Bermuda Triangle where planes, ships, and people mysteriously disappear. The good news is that you don’t actually have to fly through the Bermuda Triangle to get to Bermuda. See, Bermuda is the northern corner of the triangle with Miami and San Juan making up the other two points. There’s not much in that triangle other than open water.

Bermuda is near absolutely nothing no matter which direction you head. It lies 1,000 miles from Miami and just shy of 800 miles from New York. The nearest land is Cape Hatteras, NC which is about 650 miles west. In other words, this place lives or dies by the airplane.

I had thought Bermuda was just a single island, but it’s apparently an archipelago with more than 100 islands. Who knew? It’s a British territory, and it has delightful summer weather that remains moderate in winter but it’s not really beach weather at that time of year.

With favorable tax rules, Bermuda has become a very popular tax haven for rich North Americans. This helps offset the fact that it’s tiny, with only 65,000 people living there. This is a small but mighty group with per capita GDP sitting at the fourth highest in the world.

So, you have a combination of rich people and a highly seasonal tourism business. This has historically supported a decent amount of air service in summer, but it’s gone downhill over the last couple decades.

Seats by Airline Departing Bermuda for the US

Data via Cirium

American has been the main player in the market from the US, but JetBlue has really ramped up over the last few years. United and Delta are there but have been more minor players.

When it comes to destinations, there is just a little more variety.

Seats Departing Bermuda by US Destination

Data via Cirium

New York is the biggest destination — with 60 percent of seats this July — and has been for a very long time. It’s that tie between Bermuda and New York as financial capitals and homes for rich people that keep these two tied together. Boston comes in second place with just shy of 15 percent of seats. Charlotte comes in third with 10 percent and Philly is right behind, entirely because of the American hubs there.

There has been and remains very little service to Florida. The ties just don’t exist the way they do between Florida and the Caribbean, but it’s still a market with some minor opportunity.

With that lengthy backdrop, we can finally talk about BermudAir. The airline is starting small, and it probably will never add a huge amount of capacity just because of the model it’s using.

Service starts on Thursday, August 31 with 6x weekly to Boston and 2x daily to Westchester County (1x on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Westchester is not served by anyone, but you should think of that as a rich person door-to-door shuttle service. I can imagine there being some decent demand.

On September 22, 6x weekly flights will begin to Fort Lauderdale. The schedule will get a little wobbly until Nov when it should stabilize. And why is it wobbly? Well, it’s an aircraft seating issue.

The airline is using Embraer 175s outfitted with 88 seats to start. But BermudAir will only sell half the seats, making sure that nobody will ever have a seatmate onboard. This is a stopgap measure until the airline’s Aisle Class product rolls out on Nov 1.

Aisle Class looks truly spectacular.

There will be just 30 seats onboard the airplane and there are no overhead bins, because they don’t need that storage. According to the airline’s PR team, “We have a delay on delivery of the final and fully certified product to install. However, we’re confident of our launch of this game-changing product, our Aisle Class, on November 1st.”

With a great product comes a high price. It looks like there’s an introductory price starting at $299 to Boston and Westchester and $349 to Fort Lauderdale one way. But starting on November 1 when Aisle Class rolls out, I see nothing in any market under $999 each way.

In any other market, I’d say this sounds like a suicidal strategy, but Bermuda is a rich country with people who may very well be willing to pay this. I don’t have high hopes that this will work in many markets, but Westchester seems like the best opportunity by far. Then again, I thought Breeze had a winner on its hands with Westchester – Los Angeles, but that didn’t work at all.

At best this is a niche. If that’s all the airline wants to be, then maybe it’ll find a little bit of success. But if it gets too excited about growing, it’ll certainly sink itself quickly.

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13 comments on “Who the F*&@ is BermudAir?

  1. Nice idea. But $999 is silly. Hard to convince “average” travelers to spend that on a 2 hour flight. It’s 3x most economy fares and higher than most F. While direct aisle is nice, on a 2 hour flight, not sure that is a huge benefit. On the other hand, they may not have to sell too many of those seats to break even if they keep their costs down.

    1. Yeah, I can see it at maybe half the price to capture the higher end leisure travel (like premium economy does overseas) but this pricing, especially from FLL seems suicidal.

      I don’t know their financing but this sounds like it has the potential to go the Red Way.

    2. It definitely isn’t aimed at “average” travelers. More like travelers who always buy first class without thinking about the cost but would really rather have their own private jet if they could.

      1. Except there are 30 first class seats on this plane instead of 8 or maybe 12 at the most on current flights to Bermuda.

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me if JetBlue starts scheduling it’s Mint aircraft on the BOS-Bermuda route in order to compete with them (or drive them off the market).

    1. Jet Blue’s Mint Service is great for a flights from JFK to the US West Coast or to London or Paris. It don’t believe that passengers can take full advantage of the services offered during a 2 hour flight.

    2. I hope this comment was said in jest, and you aren’t actually suggesting that B6 put its best product on a 2 hour flight in a money-losing market.

  3. Westchester County has some of the wealthiest communities in the country if not the world such as Rye, Larchmont, Purchase, Armunk, Chappaqua, Bedford & Katonah& we cant forget the neighbors across the state line like Greenwich, New Canon & Westport. These residents could make a service like this viable, but it’s niche.

  4. Not the first flagship carrier they are forgetting Eagle Airways Bermuda with Viscounts late 50s.

  5. I posted yesterday about people with money to set on fire. Seems like there are even more than we thought.

    1. If you want to see the best example of that look up a house known as “The One”& the developer behind it. It’s truly an amazing story of insanity & hubris. The house is over 100,000 square feet &looks both amazing & yet depressing at the same time. The art installations are something to behold including a blue glass sculpture called “wings of angels.”

  6. Who would be willing to spend $1000 each way for such a premium product on a 2 hour flight? If the demand existed, that sort of boutique service would already exist on short haul US markets.

  7. I don’t see this working out. Even the well-off generally don’t want to severely overpay for a 2 hour flight.

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