UK startup flyPOP (London Stansted) plans to launch in 2021 with scheduled flights to India, after receiving “a significant investment” from the government’s COVID-19 Future Fund, a public/private co-investment scheme aimed at securing equity investment for startup companies unable to access existing state-backed loan schemes.

Launched in 2014 and punted as the UK’s only international long-haul low-cost airline, flyPOP in a statement said it was now completing its final funding round, reportedly expected to be completed in January 2021. It would also begin negotiating low-cost airport deals in the UK and India. In addition, it would continue discussions with aircraft manufacturers to secure deals that would enable it to offer the lowest possible fares.

“The funding from the UK government’s Future Fund will play a key role in putting flyPOP in a position to start flights, initially between the UK and India, something which will contribute significantly to the economic growth and closer cultural links between these two Commonwealth partners and eventually with all of South Asia,” said founder and Chief Executive Officer, Nino Singh Judge.

News reports had flights starting anywhere between 2Q21 and 4Q21, depending on the COVID-19 situation. The company planned to start operations with one aircraft to Tier-II cities in India, with plans for orders for 10 to 20 wide-bodies later, reported AINonline.

flyPOP’s statement did not elaborate on the sum received from the Future Fund, launched by the UK government in May 2020 with an initial tranche of GBP250 million pounds (USD323 million). It provides convertible loans to UK startups ranging from GBP125,000 (USD162,567) to a maximum of GBP5 million (USD6.5 million), subject to at least equal matched funding from private investors. A benefiting company must have raised at least GBP250,000 (USD325,257) in equity from third-party investors in previous funding rounds in the last five years. Developed by the government and delivered by the British Business Bank, the fund will initially be open until the end of November 2020.

While flyPOP itself made no mention of an application for a UK Air Operators' Certificate (AOC), its legal representatives, McCarthy Denning, told Private Equity Wire the funding had brought the airline “closer to applying to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for its AOC”.

FlyPOP’s announcement came as the UK air transport sector was bracing itself for a return to a COVID-19 lockdown in England from November 5, 2020 to December 2, 2020.