11 February 2015

Business airlines

That "La Compagnie" is starting business only flights from London to New York (Newark) as reported in Business Traveller (3-2-15) can only be welcomed. The business traveller might well ask why he/she cannot get that bit extra exclusivity when paying that (large) extra on a trip.

 "La Compagnie launches all-business London-New York flights" (Buying Business Travel 3-2-15)

 "French airline offers 'business class at Ryanair prices' as it slashes £1,000 off its flights from London to New York"   (Mailonline 4-2-15)
 "French firm starts 'budget business' class flights from London to New York" (London Evening Standard 4-2-15)

The previously failed experiences of "Eos, Silverjet, and Maxjet" makes one think that the concept was wrong. However, this begs the question. Those airlines tried to survive, unsuccessfully, during the biggest economic downturn in 80 years.

On the other hand British Airways, firstly, founded "Open Skies" and then took over "L´Avion" to fly from Paris Orly to New York. This has proved an moderate success. It changed its name unnecessarily  and then floundered to find the product it wants to present - which is still the case.

Obviously, the founders of "L´Avion" were bought out with the condition of not setting up any sort of competition for a certain period. That period will have finished since now, of the top six executives in La Compagnie four have previously worked in L ´Avion and/or Open Skies

Now we have the founders of the original idea, "L´Avion" setting up "La Compagnie". The new company starts flying Paris (CDG) to New York in July 2014. However, such is the confidence by them, and in them by their backers that it now proposes to fly London (Luton) to New York from late April.The frequency will be three times weekly, rising to six times weekly in June and eventually daily by the end of the year.

"Open Skies" still operates from Paris Orly to New York (JFK and Newark) and has not developed since then despite markets existing in Brussels, Amsterdam, Geneva and maybe even in Nice(without thinking about other countries or languages).
It flies B757-200s in two different configurations: a) 114 seats  with 20 Biz Bed(business class seats), 28 Prem Plus (premium economy), and 66 Eco (economy seats), while the second option b) offers 112 seats with 20 Biz Bed, 20 Biz Seat and 72 Eco seats.

To be fair to BA, it has had to accept that its all business flights from London City to New York are not part of the same subsidiary, that operates "Open Skies". This was due to union oposition. As a result, however, both "Open Skies" and the operation from London City operate separately.  This second option was originally operated from London City from 2012 by British Airways (BA) Limited under the brand name Club World London City. However, from 2015 The Club World London City services are being returned to being operated directly by British Airways PLC.

The aircraft leaving London City cannot take on all the fuel necessary to make the transatlantic leap all in one go so provides a stopover on the outward flight at Shannon. This has given them the chance for the passengers to pass througn US Border Controls in Ireland so saving that time on arrival - no small benefit. They, therefore, arrive as domestic passengers and so save a lot of time and avoid the hassle which could be a couple of hours otherwise.The problem of loading weight for the return flight does not exist so the flight is direct New York JFK to London City.
The aircraft used is an  A318 in a 32 seat all business class configuration.

However, the choice of airport for London by La Compagnie makes for thinking. Considering that Heathrow is out of the question (flight slot availability and cost), and Gatwick (the same), then we are left with Stansted and Luton. Stansted might well be the more attractive site due to the supposed higher purchasing power of the potential passengers in the region, but one has to admit that it is stuck out on a limb (near Cambridge - only good if that is your destination). Luton, on the other hand, is well connected by road and rail to London, the Midlands and the North, so the immediate area for captive passengers is not so important. The airport itself might be considered second rate ( it is mostly used for holiday {bucket and spade} flights) but that would be irrelevant if the services provided by the airline on the ground were up to scratch.

However, the airport experience can depend on the airline if it so wishes. The pre-takeoff and post-landing experience are paramount.  A good lounge to relax in, a quick passage into the departure lounge and attention to all sorts of detail can make the experience worthwhile despite Luton not being focused on business passengers.

The ultimate question is if "La Compagnie"has learned the lessons of previous experiences and can apply them  -  I would think them capable of doing so.


The number of other airlines flying all business, or specially configured aircraft with a lower density of seating than most normal flights, is small.
What this blogger has found  is the following  -  at least  in /into Europe

Qatar Airways flies (to Europe) Doha - Heathrow  daily with an A319 in a 40 seat all business class configuration. A second A319 becomes available from 17-2-2015. It flies other routes and offers charter and contract hiring

(c) Lars Steffens
 Privat Air is based in Geneva and  does charter and contract flying. At present it is flying for...
SAS from Stavanger(Norway)  to Houston(Texas)  6 times weekly using a B737 in a 44 seat all business class configuration.
Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Dammam (Saudi Arabia) 3 times weekly and,
on a triangular route from Frankfurt to Pune(India) then to Bucharest and back to Frankfurt 4 times weekly. On both routes a BBJ2 (which is a modified Boeing 737) 
in a configuration of 32 business seats and 60 economy seats. 
ECAir (Equatorial Congo Airlines)based in Brazzaville(the Republic of the Congo).Here Privat Air has operated as the national airline of the country providing domestic and regional routes. Two intercontinental routes were offered from Brazzaville to Paris (4/6 times weekly) and Dubai (3 times weekly) using a B757-200 with 16 business seats and 132 economy seats. Thus it was not strictly an all business airline.

From what we have found there seems to be a very limited "ALL EXCLUSIVE BUSINESS SERVICE" on flights to/from Europe.  The European airlines seem to be concentrating their efforts on the regular long-haul services to the Americas and Asia/Africa - meaning regular flights with good services onboard for the  well-to-do while providing connectivity for the masses from point to point. This is a philosophy whereby the "economy" passengers pay for the basics of the flight while the "business" and "first" classes provide the cream - the profits. 

How this sort of service will develop in the future nobody knows. It is up to "La Compagnie" to show us what can be done. If it fails, that is is the end of all exclusive business flights. If it succeeds then the possibilities are endless. Let us wait and see.

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