There are sometimes when you feel like you have deja vu. Now is one of those times. The concept of a long haul airline, providing a low cost business class product across the Atlantic is one that we have seen before, and fail.
La Compagnie though comes with something different, the benefit of hindsight and the backing of some of the best people in the business, with inspiration from some the very best within the industry. The airline started a new route this week, flying from Luton airport in Bedfordshire to Newark, just outside of New York, the second route in its portfolio after a successful Paris launch.
The airline is the brainchild of Frantz Yvelin, who is no stranger to the world of ’boutique airlines’ having founded L’Avion, an airline of a similar concept which was acquired by British Airways and merged into their ‘Openskies’ project, which also flies out of Paris to the US.
Using money that he got from the Openskies sale, Yvelin went on to create what was then called DreamJet, the working title before it became La Compagnie he found talent from all areas of aviation including Air Canada and Jet Airways. Using inspiration from Michael O’Leary at Ryanair, he has created a new style airline with just 74 seats onboard a 757-200, which in chart configuration would seat over 230 to give an affordable business class product aimed squarely at small to medium sized companies, and those on leisure trips looking for a nicer way of travelling.
We have been here before though. The last time that we saw low cost business class only airlines fly all three of them failed in close succession. Silverjet in fact flew the very same route that La Compagnie will be flying, Luton to Newark. There are differences though. Silverjet aimed to do things differently and had their own private terminal at Luton airport, while La Compagnie will be sharing the main terminal, although guests will have access to the Aspire lounge before the flight. SilverJet also flew the much larger 767-200 catering for 100 guest onboard their aircraft, with just 74 onboard the 757 of La Compagnie.
It failed though in the recession with the reduction of travellers combined with the high fuel price which put to an end for all the independent low cost business class only airlines at the time in the UK. Only British Airways was able to make the concept work bringin back the BA1 callsign for a business class only service from London City Airport on A318 aircradft which need a stopopver in Shannon. Although that doesn’t sound great it does mean that you preclear US customs in Ireland saving time on the arrival.
Time will only tell if this can work, history says that it cant.