Avatar Airlines Hopes Crowdfunding Will Get It Off The Ground

Open Jaw

It’s a start-up airline 20 years in the making. And it still hasn’t made it. Now Avatar Airlines is hoping crowdfunding will help it take off.

The Daily Mail reports that under its previous incarnation, Family Airlines, the would-be carrier was barred 3 times from flying by U.S. authorities, who later filed a fraud suit against its then CEO.

But now Avatar Airlines is back under a new name, and it is seeking $5 million from the general public. That amount wouldn’t get it off the ground of course. But the fledgling carrier says the cash would be used to set up headquarters and carry it through the certification process. Avatar then hopes to raise $300 million in private equity to own its planes and operate debt-free.

The business plan is a doozy. Avatar says it will revolutionize the airline industry as the "ultra-low fare leader," offering fares as low as $19 one way and up to 2 checked bags for free, complimentary Wi-Fi and other perks.

The company plans to buy 30 old Boeing 747s and pack them with 539 economy and 42 business class pax to make each flight cost effective. It says it would initially offer nonstop flights to and from markets such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Miami.

To date, no money has been raised. But, Avatar has turned to Crowdfunding as the beginning of their fundraising campaign, Steve Adams, Avatar's Executive Vice President, announced this week. They have launched a 30 day campaign called HelpAvatarFly.com seeking donations ranging from $5 to $10,000.

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at 5:38 PM May 19, 2015

The donations come with bonuses. For $25 you get a T-shirt and periodic updates about Avatar's attempts to get into the air. For $2,500, you can fly a jet plane simulator with a personal instructor. People who donate $5,000 are guaranteed an interview for the post of captain, while $3,500 will get you an interview for the first officer role. Not surprisingly, there’s no guarantee of employment.

For the coup de grace, you could invest $9,750 and receive simulator time, ground school instruction, 2 nights at a 4 star hotel in Miami, a helicopter ride as well as cocktails and dinner with Avatar's founder.

The airline is currently awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of Transport and the Federal Aviation Authority for operating authority as a commercial air carrier.

Cranky Flierauthor Brett Snyder writes that the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected Family Airlines' request for passenger service certification in 2009 because it was “concerned about (Family Air's) fitness in every area: managerial competence, finances and compliance disposition.”

He added the basic premise was 'flawed' and said selling perks like a Founders Club membership ($3,000), may violate rules governing advertising by airlines not yet approved for passenger service. “Sounds like Avatar is walking quite the fine line here,” Snyder writes.

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