Trans-Atlantic Business Carrier LaCompagnie to Grow Fleet

LaCompagnie, the French business-class-only airline that began serving New York last July, said it aims to double the fleet to four jetliners by the end of next year.

The Paris-based carrier is examining the Boeing Co. 757 and Airbus Group NV A321 narrow-bodies, and could even seek to add Boeing’s newest 787 Dreamliner, Chief Executive Officer Frantz Yvelin said today at a briefing in London.

LaCompagnie will open a route linking London Luton Airport with Newark Liberty in April, starting at four weekly flights with one of two 757s -- one leased, one owned -- already in the fleet. Round-trip tickets will cost 1,549 pounds ($1,758), and as little as 649 pounds during an introductory period.

“This route is unique, you have the strongest premium demand compared to all other long-haul routes in the world,” Yvelin said at a press conference. “I think we will drive the demand, the price and the offer.”

LaCompagnie aims to undercut Air France-KLM Group and British Airways with its business offering of semi-flat seats, Samsung Galaxy tablets and menus from French chef Christophe Langree. The carrier’s 757s -- a model that’s out of production -- carry up to 74 passengers in a 19-row single-class cabin.

Still, the premium-only model has struggled to make an impact on Atlantic routes, with LaCompagnie following MAXJet Airlines Inc., Eos Airlines and Silverjet Plc, which pursued a similar strategy almost a decade ago before going bust.

Cost Advantage

Yvelin himself founded L’Avion, which operated business flights between Paris and New York, before it was purchased by British Airways in 2008 and merged with the U.K. carrier’s OpenSkies arm, which also uses 757s but in a multi-cabin layout.

LaCompagnie will succeed where others failed by having only three flight attendants per plane, operating from Luton, where charges are lower than at London Heathrow and Gatwick, and basing itself away from central Paris, as well as through its quality of service, Yvelin said.

The carrier, whose existing route connects Paris Charles de Gaulle with Newark, is targeting an average load factor of 75 percent, versus about 60 percent today, with operations “ramping up nicely,” he said. In the London-New York market, its ambitions extend to capturing a 40 percent share of the 4 million people who travel between the cities each year.

LaCompagnie was founded in 2013 after raising 34 million euros ($29 million) from investors including A Plus Finance and private-equity funds.

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