On July 1, 2019, I had the pleasure to interview Paulo Mirpuri, the CEO of Hi-Fly. For those who don’t know the company, Hi-Fly is a wet-leasing specialist based in Portugal. With a fleet made up of 4 short-haul aircraft and 17 long-haul aircraft, it offers its clients a wide-range of choices to pick from.
In addition to this, Hi-Fly has committed itself to become carbon neutral by 2021 and as such, is making great strides regarding environmental issues.
With this said, my interview with Dr. Mirpuri was divided into three main question sets, one regarding the airline’s fleet, one regarding the company’s environmental efforts and the last one being made up of miscellaneous questions.
Due to the size of the interview, we’ve decided to split it into two articles, the first of which will regard the operator’s fleet, and the second of which will focus their on the environmental strides and miscellaneous topics.
From The Massive A380 To The Small A319
What really diversifies Hi-Fly, is the aircraft it has in its portfolio, with their well know “Save the Coral Reefs” A380 being the largest aircraft, and the newly acquired A319 as the smallest; Hi-Fly has every Airbus aircraft family on offer as of today, with the exception of one: the A350.
When discussing the fleet with Hi-Fly’s CEO, he told me that the A350 is coming very soon, as Hi-Fly wants to make sure they have on offer a different variety of services to fulfill all of the market’s demands.
“We operate the full range of Airbus aircraft. At the moment the only one that is missing is the Airbus A350. We want you [airlines] to have a full offering of the Airbus products.”
While he did not specify which variant, Dr. Mirpuri revealed: “The A350 is planned to be welcomed in 2021."
With this said, Hi-Fly’s approach to wet-leasing is quite rare considering that no other company in the world offers A380 services under a similar contract.
When asked about why the company looked to the A380 in the first place, Dr. Mirpuri said: “We fully understand that the demand for the A380 is not as high as the A330, the A340, or even A350s but we want you to have the full offering because for certain routes, for high-density routes or for charters that demand high level of quality together with the large number of passengers the A380 is currently the only aircraft from the Airbus product line that can serve that specific market.”
In regards to the possibility of getting more aircraft of the type, the CEO confirmed that Hi-Fly will in fact, be acquiring more A380s, but is taking its time, studying the market and awaiting the right opportunities to purchase more of the type.
To some people, this might be puzzling, seeing that the demand for wet-leased A380s is not that high, and recently the aircraft has spent a lot of time on the ground. When questioned about this issue, Paulo Mirpuri explained that demand was not the issue this winter, when the Airbus A380 was spotted idle.
“Actually the aircraft over the winter was under maintenance and was complying a very large AD and that was the reason that the aircraft was relatively idle.”
When asked about the divulged possible contracts for the summer season, he stated that “For the summer program we had actually identified a couple of carriers that, and one in specific that has signed for the aircraft, but, we faced delays in the airport update to receive the aircraft, so unfortunately we could not operate the aircraft for that contract because the airport was not ready.”
According to him, the biggest issue Hi-Fly has faced with the leasing of the A380s has been airport constraints, and he said: “We are being a pioneer; we have been spending a lot of time and resources opening up the number of airports that can have the aircraft.”
According to him, Hi-Fly often has to re-direct requests from airlines to some of the smaller wide-body's it offers. This is as a result of a lack of ability from airports to handle the massive aircraft, whether that is because it doesn't have the gate capabilities, or long enough runways etc.
The Aging A340s And The Brand New A350s
When asked about the possibility of retiring some of the airlines' oldest A340s and replacing them with aircraft such as the more efficient A350s, Dr. Mirpuri said: “No, not replacing. Actually we have 7 A340-300s and 1 A340-500, so a total of 8 A340s. The A340s are very reliable aircraft, all the technology of the aircraft, the airframes, the cockpit: its exactly the same as an A330, [but] you do have 4 engines instead of 2 engines. Yes the fuel consumption is a bit higher, however, for certain missions the fact that we have 4 engines is very important, and again it’s about having the product offering. We can fly to places where single engine aircraft will struggle to fly - we don’t have any ETOPS restrictions.”
According to him, when flying to markets where technical support is very limited, or when a client wants to preform flights with higher payloads, the A340 is a much better choice of aircraft, since with 4 engines it’s capable of going on these missions and even when confronted with an incident, it can still be ferried out on 3 engines.
However, the CEO did state that regardless of the retirement of the A340s, Hi-Fly will be acquiring the newer and more efficient A350 family, as mentioned above.
Short-haul, Boeing And Dry-Leasing
When asked about the company’s position as an Airbus only operator, the CEO stated that, although historically Hi-Fly has been an Airbus-only operator, the company is indeed looking at a possible future where Boeing wide-bodies are part of the Hi-Fly portfolio, but as of now no concrete plans have been made.
Additionally, he said that the company will likely be introducing aircraft such as the 787 or 777, and only after will they look towards the Boeing short-haul fleet. But this is all still up in the air and it is not the company's main focus for the moment.
When asked specifically about the recent expansion of the company's short-haul fleet, with the addition of 3 Airbus A319s in 2019, Dr. Mirpuri confirmed that it is indeed growing its short-haul operation. Additionally, he stated that these efforts, although they will be continued, are a side priority for Hi-Fly, as historically the company has always been a wide-body operator, and will continue to have this focus in the future.
Finally we asked Dr. Mirpuri if HiFly would ever consider dry-leasing aircraft. In regards to this, he stated that although Hi-Fly has previously dry-leased aircraft, these were always under a contract that included technical assistance and other things, with these situations mostly occurring with operators based in countries where wet-leasing is illegal, or when there are other legal complications.
This wraps up the first part of this interview. I would like to personally extend a thank you from us here at AeroNewsX to both Hi-Fly, Paulo Mirpuri and all of the communication staff there for granting us this incredible opportunity.
Stay tuned for part 2!