British self-made entrepreneur James Asquith has more than a million followers on Instagram and holds the record for being the youngest person to visit every single country.
Post-pandemic he has also spotted an opportunity and is starting up the world’s newest airline based at Gatwick.
While much of the airline industry has fallen out of love with the double-decker A380 aircraft, Asquith is buying them up, second hand, at a bargain price.
The A380 is the world’s largest passenger plane and was meant to be the future of flying – comfortable, long range and able to carry hundreds of passengers at a time.
However, it didn’t sell in the numbers predicted and production of the plane ended in 2021, with many airlines ditching them for cheaper, greener options.
Asquith is setting up Global Airlines and believes passengers love the spacious aircraft and can be tempted away from established carriers.
“I think it’s the most fantastic commercial aircraft ever made,” he told Sky News “but you have to do something with that space that makes passengers want to step on board.”
The Instagrammer says he wants to bring back the “golden age” of flying with space on his planes for socialising, and a better economy and business class experience.
“Go back to the 747. So many people talk about the golden days when the lounge was on the top deck, then you get lots of people who crunch the numbers saying ‘but we could actually put another 20 business class seats on the top deck’ and it slowly erodes what you can do. There has to be a middle ground and we think we have found that.”
By buying up the aircraft rather than leasing them, as is common with airlines, Asquith believes he is saving money which can be put back into making the passenger experience more enjoyable.
Some describe the self-made businessman as this generation’s Richard Branson, taking on established airlines at their own game.
The industry however is still recovering from the pandemic and has been hit by the Ukraine war and the cost of living crisis. Sceptics believe the venture may not even take off.
“The aviation industry is full of dreamers who want to fly the skies and bring competition, but it’s hard,” says Paul Charles from the PC Agency and former communications director at Virgin Atlantic.
“They fail because they can’t bring their prices down low enough and compete with the bigger carriers like BA and Virgin. But they also fail because they can’t attract enough of the premium passengers they need to rely on to charge higher prices.”
Asquith, however, is bullish.
“The name says it all in our ambitions with Global. People can be sceptics, but they always are with any plan that sounds like it’s crazy.”
These are turbulent times for aviation, but the airline boss has high hopes and deep pockets. He reckons his new purchases will be flying from Gatwick to New York next spring.